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Ryder Collins

I was promised a garden

These little old ladies will lie to you lie to you, children. They’ll eat up the wolves then pick their teeth with wedding linens that were to be yours from your mother from all the mothers before her but these old bitches do estate sales like boss kings.

Boss queens. Something.

All the slang I know I get from my teeny transistor radio.

They’ll lie in wait for little riding hoods after all the wolves are digested. After the wolf sinews’ve been metabolized and entered their dirty colons. After the bones’ve been gnawed and then re-gnawed for any leftover grist. These ladies be always hungry. These ladies have all sorts of appetites. They’re like King Solomon thirsting after Sheba and Gandhi with his nieces and R. Kelly with all the prepubescents he could scoop up in Chicago McDonald’s parking lots.

These ladies don’t want little girls, tho.

& these ladies don’t do kiddies; they want of age boys with the autonomies they can destroy.

They want the young beautiful boys with the sweat sheened skin and the long locks and the pretty chiseled yet feminine faces, with the aroma of youth and testosterone and the devil may care attitude or the fuck you up attitude or the woe is me existential all angsty attitude or the serious to the grindstone must get all As in college tude or the fratboy let’s get all party-rapey tude or the athletic I’ll go another 5K/touchdown/scrimmage/football melee tude or the I’m gonna quarterback during the week but goth myself on the weekends tude or the fuck I’m gonna lock myself up in the bathroom & cut myself all night long tude or the fuck I’m gonna lock myself up in the bathroom & whack it all night long tude or the combo cut & whack in the bathroom locked up all night tude or the I’m at the combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell all night long tude…

The any kind of tude really as long as he’s young and beautiful.

They come to me at night, always night, of course. Perhaps, you’ve seen them, too. Perhaps, if you’re not a little red riding hood and if you’re not a deep sleeper; if you’re an orphan and especially if you’re just beginning to become.

These old ladies got some scary crone shit going on. These old ladies know that birth and death are almost the same.

Are the same, one says.

These old ladies came to me before my birth.

It was dark and swooshing where I was.

Swoosh swoosh swoosh swoosh is what I heard.

The swoosh was lulling sometimes jarring mostly lulling like the ocean was singing to me or the forest was and every now and then a tempest. A tempest without Prospero without Miranda without all the royalty and only with Caliban. But, I didn’t know Caliban and I didn’t Miranda and I didn’t know Shakespeare and the only desire I had was for the swoosh swoosh swoosh: a faint lullaby of classical strings or maybe just trees waving in the forest, the sound of wind against bark, the song of limbs against breeze or woody limbs dancing, or the song of sand meeting water, the sighs as they enter each other, and my mother’s barely heard lisp. My mother’s faint lisp that no one knew but me.

The lisp she’d worked so hard to hide.

My sssssssweet bun, is what my mother said.

I could feel a hand on a hill on top of me.

& Caliban is what I heard when the ladies intercepted, when they put on my mother’s face and took my hill-island from me. When they took her lips and put them on and destroyed her sweet lisp and destroyed my father’s golden ponyboy autonomy.

Come to us, is what they were actually saying.

I didn’t know this for a long time. I didn’t know about my father for a long time.

I tried to hide.

I tried to hide in the part of my mother they hadn’t taken. First in the big bloated armada of her Armageddon uterus and then I tried to swim upstream like a motherfucking salmon.

I know all about motherfucking salmon from Alaska reality shows the one old lady recounts to me as bedtime stories now. Maybe she wants to move to Alaska, maybe she wants to be anywhere but here, maybe the cold tundra and the ever-present sun is a metaphor for her frozen heart and steely eyes; I don’t know. All I know are those are her words: motherfucking salmon. She’s the smaller and scarier of the two.

The one old crone tells me Alaska reality shows:

So there are these couples, right? And they live on federal lands and they are the last to live on these lands because they have a birthright. They think they’re in love or at least they make each other weird Xmas presents out of duck fat and gooseberries, pinecones and hairs they’ve never shaved from down there.

They pluck them each autumn.

Oh, and there’s an old guy who’s all alone. He talks to his dog. He makes her bannock.

There’s snow/always snow and the extra ordinary children shake the snow off the tree branches and murder their parents with it, peaceful blanket suffocation; they’re like children of the corn but they’re not albino beautiful. The super ordinary children lie in wait now; they know the sound of snowshoes. It makes them hungry. They are so ordinary with their snow limbed weapons and parent killings.

She says, You’re lucky there’s no snow on your dollhouse.

She says, You’re lucky you never grew to kill your mother.

She says, Soon, the roses’ll be blooming. Then she makes a mwah noise above the roof of my house. Like kiss kiss, good night. Although her desiccated lips’ve never come near my folding & unfolding masses of blood-cells-tissues pulsating growing dividing not growing always moving in stasis in the nursery on the second floor of the house in the basement.

And there are many and more bedtime stories than just Alaska. Because night. Because the old crones get lonely at night without beautiful boys in their beds.

The other old crone tells me this. She says she wasn’t always an old crone and:

This is what she says in her real voice when the scarier smaller one is not around

You don’t know sex or gender, little one (she likes to think because I’m just a mashup of cells that I know nothing of society’s expectations and I know nothing of penis shafts thrusting at cervixes and nothing of vagina tunnels thrusting at penises or that there’s thrusting on both sides of the heteronormative divide/dichotomy/dream).

You do not know what it’s like to have a beautiful one in your bed.

You don’t know what it’s like to lure him there.

What it takes to get him there. Back in the day, the mens didn’t mind my big bones. My big bones stretched my skin taut and the poets said my cheekbones went on forever and ever down through the Nile River and into the Mississippi Delta even. My bones held my skin clean and neat & my breasts jiggled only slightly; they didn’t wobble. There was no extra skin paunch above my vulva. No fupa. & I only know about the extra paunch because I have it now, & I only know about fupa because of your beautiful boy father and I’m only telling you this because you’re a bunch of cells and you don’t know what the hell I’m telling you. Paunch and vulva and Mississippi. The fertile triangle & what it’s like to feel it jiggle all of a sudden. What it’s like to look down and see some stray greys there. Like a drought’s coming on. But, you won’t judge me.

(This is what she says to me but all humans judge, even little zygotey ones.)

I was Betty Page/Marilyn Monroe big boned but taller. I was all hips and swagger. I was dream coated; I was dressed/undressed in my mind that was my suitor’s eye.

I would finger wave my hair and arsenic my face… or maybe the arsenic white was from an earlier decade? I don’t remember. I would whale bone corset my stuff and pop out my boobs. I’d rose plum blush my heaving bosoms. I’d bind my feet and wire my jaw. I kohled my eyes with ground up bones of my ancestors. They said, Pip pip. They said, Yeah baby. They said, Tutankhamen. They said, Ninsun moo moo cow of our hearts. I looked into the mirror and the mirror was glass and made me want to splinter and my eyes were nightshade tinctured, wide and seductive poisonings.

Those are the things I would do before the beautiful boy arrived. & I always lived in an upper flat with gaslights and bohemian scarves over the gaslights and mirrors and art everywhere – on the ceiling, the walls, the doors, propped against the walls, on the floor, on the edge of my bed where my two Pomeranians fought for a place amongst the arts, even among my twelve pillows against my art deco headboard. Good lord, please bless Fritz Lang and his nubile robot woman of Metropolis.

Or maybe curse them both.

When I was young, the beautiful boy would come round in his carriage/bicycle/car and pick me up and we would go to a café/speakeasy/bar and it’d be all too easy and we would say things like:




Whirling dervishes.



It was always the rampions we’d be craving after a hard night of talking/drinking/fucking and I’d send my beautiful boy out over the wall to the yard next door and I wasn’t even pregnant but that was the weight of my pull back then and then…

Did I tell you I was big and I was beautiful?

Did I tell you I once ran backwards and forwards? What I was, whether beast or human being, no one could not, at first sight, tell: I groveled, seemingly, on all fours; I snatched and growled like some strange wild animal: but I was covered with clothing, and a quantity of dark, grizzled hair, wild as a mane, hid my head and face.

At least that’s what they say.

& that was after the first time a beautiful boy let me down.

That was when a beautiful boy’d trapped me with his beautiful boy hair and his beautiful boy eyes and his beautiful boy wit.

We’d gone to a speakeasy; he’d said, Open Sesame.

We drank the bathtub gins. There was a jazz starlet who was not me but could have been me but I was white and she was not so she was even less privileged than me. She sang songs that made us jump up together and dance and we were happy.

My beautiful boy said, Let’s dance (and it was like David Bowie before Bowie’d even been born). I took his hand in mine and we went out to the dance floor where we shim-sham-shimmied and we jitterbugged and we jived and every time I was tired or at least wanting a break there my beautiful boy was with a bathtub gin or a cigarette or a hand fondling one of my breasts and then we were in the back alley and he had his beautiful wrinkle-free smooth like butter hand so far up my cunt and I was smoking a cigarette in a long ivory holder and leaning against a brick wall and waiting for the all of the all of the beautiful boy.

His name was Thomas.

Or maybe Fitz.

I often remember him as spit because he never put his cock in me in that alley although that was all of the all of my desire.

He said, I have to go eat peanut butter sandwiches.

He said, There’s an ex-Marine in the shadows.

The other old woman always stops the story here & says in her not real voice:

Are you falling asleep, little cabbage?

I look up at the ceiling of my nursery which is under the ceiling of my house which is under her face (which I’ve seen briefly and jagged through window sightings and full that one time when I was too shocked to take anything in) which is under the basement ceiling and then there are more ceilings and a roof and I don’t want a garden anymore but trees all the trees arching over the house that houses my house and their big faces and their stories, pine trees growing through/around their electrical wires, oak trees branching through their eaves, ginkgo trees growing not for them but for me.

I make a moue out of the cells and blood that comprise me.

The bigger, less scary one continues in her real-again voice:

Then he pulled his fist out and there was a car waiting and it was a black and beautiful Mercedes driven by a white and beautiful ex-Marine who could have worked his way up from Hilter Youth to Gestapo in his next life, he was so tall and brawny and white and blue eyed and his blue veined muscles complemented his blue eyes like the white snows on Kilimanjaro or maybe that’s just something Leni Riefenstahl would’ve said after he Kilimanjaro-ed her, after she made me watch the two of them groaning and stretching and reaching and bendy-bending & not in a calisthenics kind of way.

I wasn’t in love with the ex-Marine but I was/I wasn’t in love with Thomas/Fitz but I was.

The real voice of the bigger one stops for a while. & then a not so real voice says:

But, let’s fast forward to that one beautiful boy & when I sent him to my sister. I sent him to my curse. The curse that was my seed. The curse that was planted in my own blood and in my own garden and in my sister’s garden and in every garden I ever promised or hoed or let lay fallow or suckled or scythed.

Then the not so real voice joins the real voice & they are united in silence. I.e., that’s where she always end this story. Each and every time.

Is the beautiful boy Thomas/Fitz? The ex-Marine? Or is the beautiful boy someone… my father even? These are the words my mouth would make if I could form my cells into a mouth. Some lips and a tongue. A top lip and half a tongue and jawbone with no skin but maybe some muscle to move it up & down. I’ve been deprived even that. All I can do is listen and feel but never reach out, never question. I cannot cry out, fall down & fail or fall down & get back up and succeed. I’ll never crawl, ever pull myself up, never jump up & down, and never suck my thumb. I may jab a thumblike thing near a mouthlike mouth but so fucking what.

There’ll be no sucking and there’ll be no mouth.

& at the end of this story when she’s so quiet she’s almost panting from the silence but that would interrupt the silence so there is no panting but I can tell she wants to pant so badly, I can feel her looking down at my dollhouse roof. I can feel her looking through my ceiling. I can feel her barren womb feeling me out & it feels like a dried up peach pit trying to get in me or trying to get me in it. I can feel her and it makes me want to run back & forth, groveling and growling with electrocuted hair like she once did when the beautiful boy first trapped her.

She’s so quiet in her non-panting pantingness & she still hasn’t told me how he trapped her.

& all I want, each and every time at bedtime is for her and her scarier sister, instead of being inside roofing my ceiling and storying my horror, to be outside looking for something, rampions or beautiful broken boys thrown from a tower or even my mother with her long hair cut and the tresses thrown to the snows, and the trees that’d belong to me because Alaska because birthright would shake and shake and shake and shake until the snows avalanche worse than any Kilimanjaro.

Until I am an ordinary child.

Or maybe I just want a garden of newly planted beautiful boys and they will rise through the dirt and they will call to her and her scarier sister and the two old crones will backwards-forwards, will grovel-growl, will grizzled-haired run with fear at this resurrection.

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