Keys to Missing Teeth
That’s the whole tale, and I can’t lie anymore. – Slavic storytellers’ saying
I. If there really is a house in Westport, it stands on gilded chicken legs. When I come near in a rental, it hops into the gummed-up lake and taunts me with the beak it wishes it had. No mill ever tilled those flat waters of lake feck and mosquito eggs. The forest on the mountain as bad as the house—impassable. Do I look like a helicopter? My blades don’t swing so wide, my eyes are not so open. Inside the foul house, there is a room full to the gills with knickknacks and dead potato bugs, some hand-made brooms in the corner. Pickerel? Small-mouthed bass? A handkerchief tied around the forehead. An unsmiling face against grained wood. Scrawled on the garage: “Gil loves Mil,” a heart still pounding under white paint.
II. Oh, Gene. Your softly cutting voice always lured me in, your tapping soles under the red moon. A milk jug landscape under the piano. The shepherdess in rosy silk, guttersnipes and penny violets beside her. If you can find middle C, you’ll always know the way back—past the grayscale abbey and o’er every mountain. Puddle the applesauce, play your hand. I’d call every morning if I could, from the balcony or the beach, across a crowded room or a pickle barrel. Every softly cutting morning.
III. Late night at the German restaurant and the dark beer is dripping. Mahogany panels surround you’d, enclosing you’d in gherkins and schnitzel. Do you’d see constellations when you’d eat your fried pickles? Would you’d know a constellation from street lights hanging in the air? A taste of turtle soup, a slap on the rear. An apron frill brushing past a white window. A whitened widow. You’d wallow in the sycamores, wade through the evergreens. It is raining outside in the German night, and you’d can’t go home.
IV. If there really is a witch in Westport, she sits on the edge of a blackened forest. She eats ferns, swallows their fiddleheads whole. Bird goddess, whooping crane, pelican mouth. Stick your nose into the chimney, give me gifts that I cannot receive. Whose birth do you attend? Whose fingers do you stroke? Go mat your hair, go mutter to yourself. Grind your teeth to bits, but don’t forget me, whoever you are. I’m going swimming in the lake, going fishing, going out into the forest where your bony legs can’t find me, where your spells and charms won’t work. Where I can eat your memory, swallow you whole, bones, bits, and all.