Megan Giddings

Again and Again and Again

I spend my morning thinking about herons: their blue wings spread wide. There is almost nothing separating them from the sky, the water, the mud. They live in places where they can blend, spend most of their time with their feathers above their heads. If they are not blue, they are often brown. I collect tiny scraps of paper, put them between my teeth and tongue. They taste like nothing. Especially when my mouth is full of them. Shove wires and ribbons and cardboard scraps into all my pockets, my backpack too. More than once, my father said to me: you need to stay quiet, you need to stay safe. It was night, it was late afternoon, and we were, we are always, black. Their lights were red and ugly blue, not heron blue, behind us. Those were times I remembered my life could easily become a leftover crumb. Something to be flicked off a shirt. A reflex. Routine. My father held my hand. I didn’t pull away. Ten hours away, a four-year-old girl is learning, has learned, about this worse than I ever have. There is no father to take her hand. We’ll try to make her a new one out of a college fund, out of signs raised high, out of stuffed toys and Legos, out of lilies and crosses, out of thoughts and prayers, our heads bowed in mourning. But she saw it. How can anything we do be enough? I was raised to think that each ounce of pain comes with at least a drop of a lesson. But I shake this syrup, I follow the directions, and still none of that promise happens. I feel like every day, I need someone to tell me again, what are the things I can do to prove I deserve a long life? I walk into my bathroom and look at my hair. It is natural and thick and wide and high. It is my refusal to be silent even when I know it is better to let the words live in my throat. Each curl is my dissent. I am going to cut it all off. Learn how to blend. Weave it in the metal and soft of my nest. Spit out all the paper, use it and my saliva as paste. Hold myself in the shorn frizz with its tea scent. My plan is to live in the highest tree I can find. Teach myself how to sing. Make my voice a trumpet that echoes across the forest calm. Eat acorns and bark. Drink the dew and rain. Write letters to everyone I have left behind, telling them now, finally, I am free. Forgo intensity for stillness, peace. I raise the scissors, but I can’t let go.