I have never been the Beinecke Rare Book Library
Except for the time when I was swallowed by that ugly whale.
Inside her belly I became Jonah suspended in a cavern of light.
Marveled at the glass cube that was her spine.
Swam up bathed in golden light, exploring my new home.
With each breath the beast and I became more unified.
Separate beings no more I would be the storehouse of her treasures.
But then she spewed me out, transformed, onto the blistering pavement.
I was all I had seen.
All I had touched and tasted.
Knowing the light streaming through the belly of the whale was as much a part of me as the lentil soup I’d swallowed at lunch.
After reading How to Sleep With by Lynn Kirkpatrick
High tide is best. Close your eyes. It goes where your head goes. Stay away from the swans. They bite. Remember when you thought you could walk on water.
Open your mouth. Stay away from gossip. It bites. All the action happens between breaths. Short words are best. A rising tide lifts all doubts
Keep your heart open. Don’t be afraid to leave the shore. Swans mate for life. If he believes he walks on water tell him low tide is better.
Most of the action takes place under water. Inhale. Open your eyes. Your life goes where your heart goes. Time and tide wait for no one. Take big bites.
It was a place of barefooted children with empty bellies and mongrel dogs that snarled.
It was a place of water moccasins that hid under mimosa trees and crabs that clung to the wooden handled dip net that left splinters in my palms.
It was a place where the sun heated the clods of earth pushed aside by the road scraper. Where the names on the stones in the Foreman graveyard where worn away beyond reading so Addie and I were left to re-christen our ancestors who had been dead for a long time. Caleb. Minnie. Grover
It was a place where our refreshment came in cold glass bottles from the ice bin in the store at the end of the road. Nehi. Orange Crush. Dr. Pepper.
It was a place where grandmama spit into a Luzianne coffee can and granddaddy dozed over his latest issue of The Grit while the wisteria choked the trees in the side yard.
It was a place where the carpets were worn out, the people were worn out and the piano was out of tune.
That was the year Tommy T drove me to Williamsburg, Virginia where we ate fried clams at the Howard Johnson’s. Later we made out in his 1963 burgundy Impala. His tongue tasted like clams. Tommy had the midnight to 6:00 slot on WNOR. He played “Pucker up Buttercup” and dedicated it to me.
Two years later I was back in Williamsburg. I’d outgrown Tommy T, clams and top 40. That was the year I wobbled back to my dorm from the W&M Basement, drunk on 3.2 beer and passed out on my bed listening to Hugh Masakela
That was the year Mama waved goodbye to the back of a Greyhound Bus that carried her daughter away from her for the last time.