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Grey Sparrow Journal

Issue 30, July 31, 2017
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Father, Mother, and Child


A three-year-old boy stumbles along the streets, long

after bedtime, holding his


mother’s hand. They are skirting barricades, guns,

uniforms. The mother longs to lie


down and sleep a long sleep somewhere

safe, somewhere dry, yet she keeps trudging,


pretending that it isn’t raining, pretending that soon,

she’ll be home for dinner in her


house, with her red-haired child and his father. At dusk,

two days ago, the boy’s father


suggested that she and the boy rest inside a covered cart

on the road. Without warning,


the cart was driven off with them as he tried to jump in.

They saw him run, screaming to wait for him at the next

village


church, until the currents of the crowd absorbed him.

Three days and nights on the church steps, unwashed,

with her


unwashed boy sleeping, nestled against her hip. She

wants to retrace her steps. She has no map, no relatives,


nowhere to go.


Chaotically, people flee south, ditching cars that ran out

of gas, discarding luggage,


pets, furniture pell-mell along the road, tramping ahead

on foot away from advancing


armies rumored to slash women and children’s throats

after shooting the men. When


enemy planes or hail strafe the asylum seekers, they take

cover under planks, under


cars, inside cars. In the next nearly deserted town, the

woman and the boy, who


no longer talks, check a church, where she finds only an

old priest saying mass alone


among candles. It’s afternoon. She rummages inside her

purse and scribbles the boy’s


name on a scrap of paper, which she pins on his pocket,

telling him to sit right


there on the parvis, and wait for her. He must be very

good, she’ll soon be back. Wait,


she says, wait for me. Understand? Kisses both his cold

cheeks. No looking back. No


good-bye.


He can’t tell his full name, or where he comes from. His

parents have lost him, yet it is


he who must live in an orphanage. They shave his head

against lice. No food is given


him until he calls “Mother” a

woman who never bore a child, “Father” a celibate in black,


“Sister” hairless women with wings over their ears. At

city hall, eventually someone


assigns him a last name, a birth date. At playtimes, he

draws planes, bombs, and people


broken into pieces with blood spurting sideways.

Tentatively, sometimes he draws


houses, tongue protruding from his mouth. Houses with

roofs, houses with chimneys,


and walls of evenly stacked bricks and stones. Then

school, anonymous in a dull gray


uniform. Fights. Escapes. Foster homes. Prizes.

Scholarships. He’s an architect with


an all-consuming, patient urge to build a house in which

to live with two well-known


strangers.

―Antoinette Constable

 

 

Six Miniatures

 

After Work

Heavy with steps,

the path and the ladder

sleep in the grass.

A plow

in the rain

anchors the farm.

 

Point Reyes

Air shakes

around the ocean’s fists.

Dog-yellow hills lie inert

below that open door

inside the sky.

Dry riverbeds

churn heat

splash crickets.

Rocks crack open.

 

Sea Urchin

Storm-colored

minaret dome, cat’s

tongue, broken needles,

bouquet of vanilla orchids.

 

Pinecone in My Hand

Cone of shingled

fingernails

the color of clay or

silt, dry wood,

with the feel

of crusty bread.

 

Grass

Dense with the color

of hollows between waves,

color of light,

the taste of water.

 

Squirrel Tail

Acrobatic tower of light,

song of balance, flickering

wisp, lost tassel

from Scheherazade’s

veil.

 

                       ―Antoinette Constable