By Micah Chatterton
In the story, she’s skipping home from Sunday
school, her pretty, pressed Quaker dress gusting
against ribs, collarbone, her yellow hair a comet tail.
A moving spot, a tiny lizard on the sidewalk,
darts under her foot. She stops, mid-step.
It stops, stunned still in the patent leather
shadow of her shoe balanced overhead.
When she leans her weight to step over,
the thing follows her foot shade to shade,
and as she tilts her body back it always finds a way
to slip beneath her. Her other leg starts to sting,
so she jumps, it jumps, and somehow the whip
of its tail catches her heel, smashed part pinned
to the sidewalk on a coin of blood.
The lizard twists, strung down by its own flesh,
and she, in a panic, young girl, that never wanted
to hurt anything smaller than herself, stamps
hard on its head and runs home crying.
In the story, I think of a girl wrestling
with her own divinity, an inkling of her size
in the skies of so many small beasts,
God standing on one leg,
trying so hard not to crush us
as we shadowjump through innocence,
until we all nail our tails to the point
of some first mistake.
How we scurry, tiny-eyed, from one cool
place to another on the burning stone of our lives.
We never question the mountains that shelter
and cloud us, how they swing by a thread.
I think of those animals living in constant fear,
fear of starvation, fear of being ground to dust
by the pestle of that watchful eye,
and in our fear we stumble forward,
slapstick, into our next sin, the footfall
of the suffering we must deserve.
But, then, it’s only the end
of the story that needs death
or God or panic. Before that,
she is blameless, even comical,
some sweet girl holding her foot in the air
forever, wind sweeping through
her knees, sunlight warm on the wings
of her arms, trying not to
break the earth by walking on it.
Micah Chatterton’s work has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including Best New Poets 2013, LETTERS, Slice, and Tin Cannon. He holds an M.F.A. in Creative Writing and Writing for the Performing Arts from U.C. Riverside, and is the librarian of a Visual and Performing Arts Academy in Rialto, California.