I find myself again in the cemetery where a man cuts tree stumps into animals – a bird, a bear, a woodpecker with its long beak pulled back ready to strike at the smallest head in remembrance of someone I’ve never met. I wonder if the woman buried next to my car would prefer a motorcycle or balloons, a can of pringles in place of the bird. All the flowers are dead or fake, leaves the color of fresh limes I’ve squeezed into margaritas. Little delights.
I’m sure everything is imaginary, even the Ohio River that runs between my teeth, this patch of Indiana where I found my daughter performing necromancy on earth worms. How she’d cup them in her hands to whisper spells in toddler tongues.
My body has become a mausoleum for bee carcasses dropped in Dixie cups and left on the windowsill to dry. This is a special kind of hope, I think, and I show my daughter the way to pin them to boards, pretend they can see us sleep. I will tell her about the bear carved in the tree, the story of how it came down from the Appalachian trail to find us waiting. I don’t know if I’m teaching her the right way to see the periphery, to hold the worms just so until they unshrivel with the rain, move as though alive.
Christen Noel Kauffman lives in Richmond, Indiana with her husband and two daughters. Her hybrid chapbook ‘Notes to a Mother God’ (forthcoming, 2021) was a winner of the Paper Nautilus Debut Chapbook Series. Her essays, poems, and stories can be found in A Harp in the Stars: An Anthology of Lyric Essays (forthcoming, University of Nebraska Press), Tupelo Quarterly, The Cincinnati Review, Willow Springs, DIAGRAM, Booth, Smokelong Quarterly, Hobart, and The Normal School, among others.