12/21

child-bearing 

my neighbor has a pocket knife
he uses to whittle trees into children.
he starts at the top
removing each limb one by one. 
the branches fall
as arms. elbow & all.
piles of limp forearms in the grass.
beneath dirt, their toes curled
like beans.
i watch from my adolescence-window
as he brings them each meal.
ladles soup down their throats.
warm biscuits & sometimes
a caramel. the tree children
ask him every night 
when he's going
to pull them up
& let them run away. 
the children dream of drinking
from rivers & writing a name
with chalk on the driveway.
after the limbs are removed
he works the torso.
thrusts into the tree's meat
working & working until
the figure starts to emerge.
for him, there are never enough children.
at night, in his house, the neighbor
reads alone. he opens a bible
but doesn't believe. likes the routine
of the passages. dog ears
the ones about salvation.
looks out the window
at the tree children 
as they try to sleep standing up.
then, looks across the way to me
& our gazes meet for a moment
between the glass of both our windows.
he doesn't blink. he nods
& all night i dream 
of being one of his trees.
my own father is working 
on a bottle cap machine
& my mother is knitting
a cozy for the moon. i need a man
with a knife to make me
a child again.

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