“I am trying not to be stuck in
my old ways. I am trying not to love my own pride and ignorance.”
-Frank Gaspar from “I See Men but They Look Like Trees Walking”
Shasta cola sufficed over the weeks when we were too poor to afford Dr. Pepper, but that didn’t matter when we sat on the front lawn under the eyes of Pegasus and Pisces hovering just above the horizon, the dimmed day an aquarium for the constellations. Beneath a barren mulberry tree, tucked away in the curve of our dirt road, Dad and I plugged a milk jug with Copperhead BBs. Three pumps was enough pressure to penetrate the plastic; three copper stars shot the pattern of Orion’s Belt just like the Milky Way, but one pump and one shot was just enough to tease the chickens.
I could see the BB match the arch of the earth—one pump stung the senses back into the hens, always sending them to flight, but they were bound to the earth. Offended by the bite of a BB on their ass, they found a way to restore their pride: necks pecking back and forth with staccato steps. And I thought this was not unlike the gangsters at school and the way Jim Callings walked as if snubbed by some random pellet, but those boys had different fathers: one too many beers and Jim would catch another swipe across his face. Those sore circles around his eyes reminded me of Saturn’s rings.
I did not know, back then, the immortal yet simple truths of Carl Sagan, that we all are made from the stuff of stars-we all are a way the cosmos can know itself. But I cannot go back to Jim and befriend him-my brother among the ether. I gaze up today and see the stars’ light from twenty years ago, and I remember the only thing I caught from my father were footballs rising and falling beneath the mulberry trees.
This prose poem first appeared in The Packinghouse Review, Volume 2, Number 4, 2011.