Night spreads its palm across the plains. Crickets lose their count, and start again. An owl opens its eyes with dread aim.
Darkness is a figure eight.
The girl lies on the blanket, clutching a book to her chest. The big toenail on her right foot digs at a mosquito bite. Her smile curves with the horizon, and her eyes clock shooting stars. Clouds blow wide, netting wayward constellations.
Wind is a careless laugh.
She doesn’t know. She doesn’t know, lying here, that this ground is sacred. That she will return to the place, in dreams and recollections, and run her finger around the cool, sharp lip of time. That she will reflect back on the strawberry skirt she wore, and slip that finger inside its hidden pocket—before it dissolves. That she will, one day—and sooner than seems right—pair bitter to the sweet now cradling her.
That she will shape the clay of now.
The moon is a pockmarked teenager.
Bats are birds with the song squeezed out.
Fireflies are star-crossed lovers.
And it comes upon her. With the urgency of revelation. He is out there. Somewhere. Even now. He. Breathing. Him. Reading. Or—
Looking up at a moon.
Her breath catches on the crescent thought. She sets the book down in the grass, and extends her arms above her head. Growing herself a little taller. Feeling the warm flutter beneath the ghosts of breasts to come. Making room.
Over the hills, fireworks begin. She hitches up her elbows to watch their frantic pop and stomp. And soon misses her quiet canvas.
“Lizzie! C’mon back to the house!”
Fear is a horse with too many hooves.
“It’s started, girl!”
She scrambles to her feet, and runs across the field. Her legs through the rushes are the pulse of someone else’s youth. Her small fists punch the night. Her braids flap in figure eights.
The book’s cover, on the grass behind her, glows blue, then red, before falling to black.
“I’m coming, Mama!”
The owl spreads its wings and takes to air.
The art is Andrew Wyeth's Night Shadow.