Sylvie of the Stone Stoop
Published in Intermission, November 2018
I talk with Sylvie of the stone stoop
as her hand digs
around in the Cheetos bag for crumbs
and her bare feet swaddled in socks
made entirely of dirt
trace circles in the pea rocks.
The humidity is already buzzing
every insect in the county
on a breezeless breathless day
so I speak up
knowing her momma
is listening on the other side
of the screen door.
Sylvie builds mountains of pea rocks
surrounding a crater where her
castle grows formidable and queens
are kings and her queen commands
armies of lionesses
who stalk the perimeter of the realm
not even a goddess could hear.
Sylvie’s cousin from St. Louie
mounts an attack
to break all of the beautiful things
in the kingdom
and is then banished to the weeds
by the dislodged drain pipe
where he will be eaten later
After we have named everything
in the grocery bags I brought
and the afternoon is just beginning
to wring out
we stand to do the goodbye dance
and I promise to come inside next time.
My voice slides off the ripped screen door.
On my way down
the gravel road I turn back
to claim my forgotten messenger bag.
Picking my way through
the weeds by the drain pipe
I round the corner as
“Momma, why don’t we like her again?”
Sylvie’s momma sighs
drags deep and long
on her Pall Mall
“Damn it, Sylvie.
She ain’t Jesus people.”
I cannot get
her words in my ears
and I am not certain
I can stand
to hold these lonely things.