For a long time I leave candles in the woods,
hack at living roots, wait all night for a witch
to cast a spell on my house.
I want yards full of dinosaurs and giant
cabbages, I want the woodpeckers
to strike gold when they lay into a maple tree.
Here, rabbits’ coats change color in winter,
berry bushes morph to agave, an old mariner appears only
when it rains – unbreathing – to tell me
what I’m not ready for.
I cross the bridge that divides the beach,
find the boy who likes me enough to let me
squeeze beneath his umbrella, the girl who
plays her flute in the drizzle, in the graveyard, the girl who loves
the stars and electrocutes me
on accident, who marries me
three days after I ask her, who brings her bedroom
to my house, goes spelunking and builds bombs and mends
fences sometimes. Years pass.
What changes is
the strength of my pickax, the bows in my hair,
the caverns that go down into the desert forever.
It occurs to me, as I fill my bedroom
with candles, my house does not
burn down, and I
have never died.
I have collapsed
in a garden, bled
at the hands of skeletons, jumped
into a hole I couldn’t see
the bottom of, have come bleatingly back
in the doctor’s office, the tears in my backpack
leaking gems. I have stood atop dynamite, carried
strawberries large as my head, fed a statue,
fished in sewers, but I have never felt the sun.
I have had the strength of a mouse, a mountain,
a flea. I have wanted badly
to dig up what I am sure is a boat on the beach but
cannot. I have wanted to wait
in the witch’s house until she returns – or even slip off
my shoes and swim – I never learned
to swim. I have married
the shopkeeper’s daughter because of her moxie
and purple hair, even though I wanted to marry
the fisherman, the wizard, the goblin guarding
the shack in the swamp. I have wanted
to savor pufferfish and tree-sap until
the whites of my eyes turned black. To spike the punch, lock out
the cows, wait for the wolves to come.
To sleep an entire year.
I do, say I let
the gardens wither, erase the memory
of my wife, never milk the goats, fill the forest
with bombs. These are the things
I think about but don’t do. Instead,
I befriend the dwarf so he’ll tell me
his secrets, collect peaches, recycle the busted glasses
I fished up from the sea.
I have wanted to find
each fossil, each cracked
vase and elf’s crown – to collect and fill up
those blank spaces that encase
my mind. I
have watched the cows
give birth but never grow old,
waited to see what
my daughter would look like
when (and would she?) leave the crib.
I am scared
about what having a daughter means, how much
like me she’ll be. Will I get to teach her to fish? Give her
her sword? Lead her through caverns I have yet
to break a bone in? She will be disappointed
to find every door already unlocked,
every barrier cleared. She
already automated, me standing
solid in her path. How many seconds
until she walks through me?
I watch her plant a parsnip seed.
Dread the day
I turn her into doves.