Tuesday, March 9th, 2010

A Childhood Sestina
Lora Rivera

You’re mixing dirt and water, making mud,
and watching insects climb in narrow patterns
the peaks and valleys of your toes and fingers,
with which you’re preparing to gather a handful
of wet dirt to slop over them and watch the scattering
of biting red bodies with cool interest.

They say that other things should interest
little children more than buckets of mud,
castle building and birdseed scattering,
the flight of gray birds in alphabet patterns,
or counting each bead in a handful,
not watching them slip through your fingers.

You feel the deep squish in two fingers,
dividing body and head, and losing interest
suddenly, when you remember a stored handful
of birds’ eggs, mottled colored, like mud
dollopped among grasses, polka dot patterns.
You leap up in the box, the dry sand scattering,

the way you’ve seen round beads scattering
on kitchen floors, after which your mother’s fingers
in bruising must-hide patterns,
played in fleshy places that would not draw interest.
Shoes go off so you won’t track the mud.
Smile when she calls you “my little handful,”

and go cleanly to your remembered handful
of eggs, which you prepare for the scattering
you saved them for. For making mud:
Mix something wet with something dry with fingers—
and “something” ought to get a bit of interest
from worried grown-ups whispering, “Patterns.”

Bead dropping bad days make patterns
in your mind as you pop one handful
of something wet. And something of interest
to whispering grown-ups drops among the scattering
of dry shell bits between your fingers:
Mix tears and yolk and shell for making mud.

There are alphabet patterns in an eggshell scattering,
thinks “her little handful” to the lump at the tips of her fingers.
With waning interest, you swirl the puddle of mud.


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