My daughter has begun to sport a bra and buzzsaw. Our firstborn, candy statue, California ballad in cake time, her body is now shot with pistons, hammers of blood and industry. She is building a machine to fight and fuck and fly. Sometimes I stop her work, remind her of the geography of respect, map the country of love that is our home. Other times, I simply stand on the side of the road and watch her pull away. She is in a contraption I do not recognize, dust kicking up between us. As the wheels and wings whinny away, I wave my arms above my head, hoping she will see me, my love, our home. I stand and watch until she becomes a dot on the horizon and the only sound rising from the earth is the flat echo of memory.
THE FLIGHT MACHINE
Benjamin Holiday once fell from a tree and never hit the ground. He was climbing a climbing tree in Mrs. Brill’s backyard. Halfway to the ground, without knowing why, he twice tapped the scar on his right arm and stopped in mid-air. His eyes took inventory. No thunderclap or wind shiver or ghost huddle. Mrs. Brill’s old cat stood inside a bedroom window, its eyes cooked as if tethered to hot wires. Nine year-old Benjamin stepped down, stamped on the dirt earth three times, and slipped through the gap in the fence that separated his backyard from hers. Benjamin kept tapping his absent wing. He tested mathematical patterns and tried the trick while falling from his bed. Then he spilt down the kitchen counter and pitched over the workbench in the garage and finally he slipped out the back door, ignoring the mashed plums forming on his hip and knee, and looked up at the wood shingle rooftop. Benjamin said something like a prayer to the supreme power of magic and flight, and then he scrambled up the woodpile on the side of the house and, again, rose above the collapsing engines of gravity.
Robert Stapleton lives in Indianapolis and teaches at Butler University.