Inside and Out


My ear is hot, here pressed against his chest. I canít hear his heartbeat but I can feel it through his white cotton tee shirt. Itís a wonder he doesnít sense it pumping warmth out into his hands and down into his feet, peeking out of from his blue jeans. His blood warms me, coursing wildly just beneath where my face rests.

He looks up at the ceiling and imagines shapes out of the water marks, left by the tenants above. Here a giraffe, there a lamppost. I look at my hand on his chest and attempt to discern if it is moving, ever so slightly, by the power of his heartbeat. I try to slow down the beating, and then speed it up again, just with my thoughts. I imagine itís working. He laughs and my hand rides the aftereffects of his light exhalations. A kangaroo, he says. In the corner. Hey, he says, looks just like a kangaroo.

I take a moment to wonder if the old couple upstairs knows that they are making giraffes and lampposts and kangaroos on the ceiling down here every time they wash the dishes. I then wonder if they can hear his heartbeat as well as I can, if they sit in their old sitting room, reading old books and looking at old pictures, and from time to time exclaiming Heís at it again. I can here that boyís heartbeat right through the floor.

If I could, I think, I would set my watch to the thumping beneath his chest. If I could, I would frame these water marks and hang them in a museum. People would stop and stare and then utter A kangaroo, my God, that looks just like a kangaroo. And I would lean against the wall, my hands in my pockets, nodding.

But now I am here, my ear pressed against his chest, warmed by the pathways of his circulation as he discovers an apple, a maple leaf, and a peppermint stick on the ceiling above us.


This blade of grass is greener than the rest. I am careful not to step on it. Instead, I kneel down beside it to watch. I am confident that if I had a piece of canvas stretched onto a frame, sitting here on my lap, I could pick this blade of grass and paint a picture. I would paint green landscapes, green wheelbarrows, and green sneakers. I would paint a mint chocolate chip ice cream cone, sprinkling soil on my picture to make the chips. I would paint leaves and frogs and grasshoppers. I would paint an evergreen. I shift so I am lying on the ground, my eye even with the blade of grass. It is striped with fine vertical lines that converge at the top, at the point of this little green dagger. Hey chlorophyll, I think, come out and talk to me.


You look like a sprite when you dance. I feel tingling on the back of my neck watching you draw you hands in to spin. I want to tell you this but I think maybe you are too young to hear it coming from me, which makes me feel old. After all, I have lived through decades. Two of them.


Walking alone on the sidewalk, I keep my head down and am careful not to step on the cracks. I avoid the sticks and the pebbles and the small bugs making the courageous scuttle from the gutter to the grass. I push my hands down into my pockets, grounding myself. Itís raining. I clamp my teeth together and scuff my foot on the ground. I scuff my foot again and again, blinking to keep the rain out of my eyes, my hands jammed in my pockets, head down. I switch feet, sometimes pounding my right foot two or three times on the cement before jumping to my left.