February 22, 2008

The Master of Artemia Salina

  Useless, endless swarms and squirms of activity (or “comical tricks and stunts”) – were ordered by Horace Makely in 1970 from a comic book ad. Horace was a boy in private school, and as everyone else was engaged in useless, endless swarms and squirms of activity, he thought “Sea-Monkeys” that he could train to do tricks, that -- with a magnifying glass -- you could watch mating!, could make him popular.
  Horace had no friends. His roommate short-sheeted his bed, put cold spaghetti in his pajamas and shunned him in study hall. Horace ordered the shrimp – “Mom, Dad and their babies,” for a dollar postpaid.
  What a disappointment! Horace couldn’t see anything that looked like a shrimp, let alone the naked sexually-active “Sea-Monkeys” in the ad.
  Horace had stolen two milk glasses from the dining hall in his pockets, and he poured tap water and neutralizer into both and let them sit. The next day he added part of the package of dried dots to one glass. After classes he would rush back to the room to get the glass from his closet, peering through his magnifier at the tiny shrimplings. Finally a miracle happened and they hatched. The baby shrimp struggled, as if the water of Connecticut was so different from their spawning water that they had to learn a new way of swimming. They grew, but they didn’t do stunts and they didn’t mate. Horace had kept them a secret so far, hiding them in a shoebox under piles of laundry on his closet floor.
  After a week, when a few of the tiny monkeys had floated to the top of the water, Horace added a pinch of Coca-Cola, thinking it might be the kind of shock to the system that would revive them. It didn’t. Horace poured everything out through some toilet paper, picking out the dead ones, quickly putting the few fragile squirmers in the second prepared glass, which he hid in the closet again, and left for history class. Several things may have happened next:
1) In a raid on the boys’ closets, looking for hard cider and stocks of 27% alcohol Listerine, a proctor found the smelly glass and poured it down the toilet.
2) Horace’s roommate found the glass and added a drop of Pepsi-Cola, and the shrimp grew fat enough to eat with lo mein.
3) They really were monkeys, and they scampered out and ran away.
4) Horace became popular and captained the lacrosse team.
5) The glass turned over, soaked into a pile of Horace’s dirty clothes, which he sent home (as usual) to be laundered. When the box arrived at his parents’ in Faxfield , the smell from the dead shrimp reminded the maid of the beach. She quit and went back to Honduras and married her old sweetheart. Horace was enrolled in public school, and captained the A/V team.
7) Horace grew up. In 2008 he googled “sea monkey” and got 209,000 hits. Nostalgic, he sent off to Transcience Corporation for another kit.

February 16, 2008

Cinderella Goes to the Ball without a Prince

  Black cokeslag pearls strung on squirrel sinew, tendrils, and evaporated trainsteam, my dress stained with pawprints of mud, blood; ruddy cheeks rouged by too-cold walks -- I wear them to a ball in the rotted-red hollow tree, with white fungus shelves for deepwoods wine. No prince. A handsome stag, without choreography, bounds away from my companion Robert Browning -- part beagle, part choirboy -- who barks in a highpitched tenor, while Copernicus blurrrtrots back to the car.

February 12, 2008

Radiant Shroud

  I sit in the backyard at a reticulated iron table, eating strawberries and watching ants. Occasionally in my peripheral view there is the lunge or glide of a venturing shadow--a cat, a dog.
  I see my own humped shadow. It could be the shadow of a rock formation. A weathered mound with a bump (head), windbent scrub pines (unbrushed hair), steep slopes that will be difficult to climb (shoulders and arms), a tumbling rock (hand, dashing at a fly). Sun on my back, I am thinking so that I can write. I am the Sphinx. The ants are caravaners in the Gobi. Each grain of sand is tuned to sing. Each weed is an oasis.
  Suddenly my shadow moves. It detaches itself from my feet and rotates into a position behind me -- between me and the sun. Oh, I am so weak, so transparent. With my last strength, I turn and see my shadow pulsing on the ground, breathing with relief. I am my own shadow. When the sun is out, I will be seen fat and round as a pumpkin, and I'll be long and thin as a pole as evening comes on. When the moon is full, I will spread across the ground like a blanket, sheltering the very ants I watch in the morning.
  In a lighted room, I will be that chimera on the other side of the lamp -- the ghost companion who attends a reader in the evening, the one who stands patiently outside the pool of light, the one that disappears when the reader turns off her lamp to go to sleep.
  I will now be beautiful at all times. Just as all cats are gray at night; just as all women are beautiful in the dark. My life as a rock trying to affect the world is over--now I can do anything as a speed-of-light shroud of my own past.
  I will race clouds across the plains, pointing the way to hot buffalo. I will enthrall children who stare out of minivans at the altercar that keeps apace on signboards and jumps ditches, just by riding on top and waving. I will meld with the single shadows of glades, and deepen the shadows of each tree and vine and bird in the bush to create obscure shade.
  It has happened the way I said. I sit in my backyard eating strawberries and watching ants. I win a race with a high cloud; I cool my aged cat. A roly-poly bug's bus-shaped shadow disappears within me, then comes out the other side with a banner -- a hair that's stuck to its back.
  I go back to thinking.