Lost 'N Found
My sister built a tree fort with her own bare hands. She rigged a platform and a rope ladder to scale the trunk, climb to the top and peek into the far off ocean. Inside the fort, a kettle sits at a small wood stove, but it's just for show. There is no fire in the tree fort. There is also a fake bathtub and a fake fridge—a fake gaslight and a fake hose. About the only thing that's real in my sister's tree fort is a rug that we both curl up on, and, of course, the view.
One summer, I tried to visit my sister in her tree fort. At first she would not let me in. She drew up the rope ladder like a drawbridge and said, "No girls allowed." I didn't say anything, but curled at the base of the tree, right in the roots, until I looked like one, and cried and cried and cried. Then she let me up and fed me circus peanuts. From that day on, she let me tend the imaginary fire and send imaginary smoke signals into the air. We weren't really trying to find anyone. No one tried to find us.
And things were fine, nay great, until my sister's drinking problem made me sit up from my corner of the rug one pale, lukewarm night and exclaim, "Sister— it's me or the booze."
She muttered that she didn't know what I meant, that I was naive, ungrateful. We shuffled around each other for days in the tree fort. Tequila dripped through the floorboards.
I am not a large girl, but I do not fit so well in my sister's tree fort. I stub my toes, and thwap my forehead, and rake my knuckles. The mini mirror, should it shine, reflects only my waist. The mini rug, should it have tassels, tickles my lip. The mini shower, should it work, wets only my shins.
I have some leaves but my sister says I wasn't born with those.
I like my hands; I order seven pairs online. My sister is going to show me how to fasten them all with her sewing kit. I have a squirrel tail which, to keep clean, I lick like a cat. My saliva flecks the air and catches the light. I am very pretty.
I don't know why I came here. I don't know why I show up anywhere. If I leave, I'd like my sister to throw her arms around my knees and beg and beg me not to go.
"It will be terrible here without you!" She'd say.
I do not tell her my secret wish. "Narcissist," she'd hiss.
Today my sister kicks me out of the tree fort. She says I have the drinking problem, not her. I don't think that's right. Before I leave, she pulls out a brown cardboard box. LOST 'N FOUND it says on the side.
"Give back everything I gave you," she says, but I don't know what she's talking about. She shakes the box at me so I take off all my rings and bracelets and drop them in.
"Such a selfless martyr," she says, and I am ashamed. "The car keys too. You can't drive drunk."
I toss them in there, too.
I peer one last time in the box before I leave. Little mice crawl around my things.
Down in the forest, I weave among the trees.
Soon the basket was very near the earth. White Eagle could tell
there was something inside it. Then he saw what it was. He could
hardly believe his eyes. The basket was full of lovely maidens!
-From “The Daughter of the Stars,”
A Native American folktale.
She is the smallest, cramped in the basket,
sizzling down to Earth
for a chance to party up the weekend.
Maiden chatter nettles her folded legs
like bug bites.
Why do we fly this fucking thing
she does not ask, also where is this place
and what is and will it—
then she sees the Prairie men.
And from mouse holes
on the side of the basket, their freaky UFO,
she can ogle them all.
Even from the stratosphere
their coltish legs look restless—
the shine in their hair. Hands on hips.
maidens fluff their moonbeam gowns
and stick out their chests.
She asks White Eagle with the strong jaw
but he just says No, grabs another’s hand.
She came to Earth to be pretty,
the way a mouse dons a mouse dress,
a mouse bow, and mouse slippers
for mouse feet—
The way a mouse becomes a horse
even if she doesn’t want to,
her coat as soft as the taste
of ice cream. A prairie man yawns like a bonfire—
and someone will rise to fill it,
to pop in as a cricket does, and get stuck
soundless thereafter. Run, run for your lives,
the smallest daughter hollers
but the party just hears squeaks
going eek eek
from speakers set up to look
like tree stumps—
Space Jam beats out the plastic bark while
stars fall from the sky to bed in
hay bales. Maidens reapply lipstick.
Somebody kicks a dust cloud.
Music washes wheat grains dry.