Issue #54


This Irreplaceable Known


Alana Erickson

It’s Saturday night at an old wooden table the color of sweet caramel. A large bowl with 

paintings of green reindeer around the edge holds your dinner. You savor the taste of steak, though the cattle are right outside the fence line (awaiting grain or lawn clippings). Your grandmother takes her time laying sheets down in the extra room, where there’s a high-up window that you can’t see out of, but she leaves it open to hear the wind. She hums the light whistle of the breeze and the pine trees rejoice in its calling, waving back and forth, doing their best to send a greeting. 

Grandma sits in a chair and whispers Twinkle, twinkle little star, how I wonder what you 

are, You stare over her shoulder out of the high-up window—the one you can’t reach—and you wonder how many stars there are and if your grandma is saying that you are a star, and if they are close enough for humans to touch. The wind howls and the house creaks low as the night mingles with your imagination. You think of the coyotes and if they could come inside, if they would chase you, and you listen to the coos and hoots of barn swallows and owls. 

The early hours of dawn etch pink clouds over Mount Baker and his friends, the twin 

sisters, and you wonder just how far away they all could be. You imagine dinosaurs stepping along the ridges hundreds of years before, or even thousands, but you cannot count to one thousand, so you can only wonder. Maybe they are still here and humans just can’t see them. Maybe birds fly overhead for Christmas time and only they can see them, but humans can’t. 

You lift your thin body from beneath a quilt, patterned in flowers of lavenders and 

yellows. You pick at the loose strings around the sunflower and wish you were allowed scissors to cut them off. The door knob clicks. It’s your grandfather. You hold tight next to him in your polka dot pajamas and follow him in this way through the garage with firewood stack, across the dewy yard, into the shop of a million screwdrivers and car parts. He unlocks the shop door with the press of a foot on a panel and the clang of a lock against the metal frame. It echoes boldly and slides upward like the folding of a three-piece lawn chair. 

Your grandfather carves into the dirt of the woods with the help of your dog, 

black and yellow with circle eyebrows, known by “Kiddo,” but not by breed. Again, you are following hot on their tails. A giant moth the size of your hand disguises itself with the tree, and you wonder if it knows that it is known, or that its wings share the eyes of a cat. The trail opens to the gravel, and you head North with the company of mossy fence posts. 

You reach your hand into the yellow mailbox for Sunday’s paper, carrying it in both 

arms. There is a section for ads. You’re allowed a pair of scissors to cut out the ones of animals for sale in the city. You pin each on the cork board in your papa’s shop and stare at the photos because they remind you of the barn kittens you saw. Your grandfather lends a plate and some milk to set outside the wood pile. You wait in the fog for the kittens, but none appear, so you wander back across the gravel, across the lawn, ducking underneath the sheets which are hanging damp on the clothesline. 

Sitting in your grandfather’s green recliner, the cattle pass slowly and the fields ripple 

fast, and you wonder if they hear words when you moo back at them, or if you are speaking their language wrong and they are so confused that they can only keep bellowing, hoping you will eventually understand. And you long for nothing but to listen, and to know.


Mother Lost Her Tongue