June 30, 2009

Fools Gold

In a cookie-cutter subdivision
in a nondescript town, it is the
summer in the American South.
I have few friends that I would
tell anything to, let alone anything dark.
Much of my time, I read. I’m looking
for an escape, and I am ambling
through a wooded lot lying next
to our house.

This lot is too narrow; the hill
in front is too steep to build a house on.
Young pine trees inhabit the place.
This area miniscule, but it is full
of mysteries, full of refuge. The undergrowth
is full of briars and thorns. There
are tunnels running through, a complex
system, with several entrances, many
a place to hide. In one place
the neighborhood kids had dug a large pit.
This cavity has many uses. It is a foxhole,
army base, or anything that could be militaristic.
We carry our plastic guns believing someday
they will be real.

This day though there are no other children.
The sun is setting towards the base of the long
shallow hill. I am wearing red sweat pants,
and a dirty cotton shirt. I am sitting on the hill
of the vacant lot, in the eroded gullies of packed
red clay, and various rocks.

Ambitious, foolhardy weeds have
taken root, but the next heavy rain will soon
wash them away. I imagine myself being
in the desert, surrounded by nothingness.
The ambient sounds are of people and traffic,
but I hear the coyote in the distance. I shift through
the rocks, hoping to find something interesting.
I long for everlasting beauty, a “Eureka!” find.
I want diamonds, thinking that they will be cut
and highly brilliant in my hand.

This day, as the sun hangs low
in the sky, casting oblique rays towards
this young geologist, I see a metallic
reflection amid the dull and drab contours
of the earth. I reach for a golden nugget
and I rejoice.

I pick it up, and try to remember when I have
ever been happier. I believe I am richer than
I have ever imagined. I have found a hunk of gold,
and I can buy anything that I want. My fingers
curl around it, and I grip it tighter than anything
I have ever wrapped my hand around. This rock
is heavier than it appears it should be. It reminds
me of picking up the cluster of rings my mother
leaves by the sink when she washes the dishes.
This heaviness means the world to me.

I enthusiastically hold the grail out to the person
who knows more than anyone in the world. And
my mother says, “That’s a nice piece of fool’s gold
you’ve found.” And all my hopes and dreams and ideas
are crushed. Even for a child, it is crushing to be called
a fool. I do not hold the truth in my hand,
only something interesting.