Gone Lawn
a journal of word-things
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Gone Lawn 48
spring equinox, 2023

Featured artwork, Elephant 1, by Neila Mezynski

New Works

Maria Poulatha

The Happiest Thought

My child does something dangerous, like stand on one foot on a tree branch and I gasp but she is out of peril in seconds, dangling from her knee hinges like human fruit. And I think, if I ever lose this child, I will die.
But what if I lose her, say, for a minute? I look away and she's gone when I turn back, only to find her behind the tree on the seesaw. So what if I look away and then walk beyond the water fountain so that she is out of my sight a minute longer? She's still there, repeating a singsong and tapping her scuffed sandals twice every time the seesaw lands on her end. What if I walk to the mint-green shop on the corner and order an iced latte, then unpeel the wrapper from a moist muffin and chew slowly until it dissolves in my mouth? Muffin and coffee in each hand, I continue down the street. I ogle snakeskin shoes in shop windows and allow a salesman to slip them on, and then I wear them out, leave the old shoes behind. I'm lured into a tiny shop covered in mirrors and a woman in hot-pink spandex and a third eye drawn onto her forehead reads my palm and informs me that I will buy a house with a Jacuzzi and parking space. I buy a new muffin for the man on the corner who lives in a house made from 86 milk cartons and ask him all the things I've always wanted to ask, Why this corner? It's sunnier on James and Allen. How do you turn off the lights? and Is there anything to lose? The man shows me how to wash my face in the public fountain and I sip his vodka and ask him his name but I'm sure he gives me a fake one because who would name their child Harry McScary Bucklefudd? After he sleeps like a sunned cat, I sneak into a church and overhear a man confess something unthinkable about the neighbor's dog then walk into a Korean restaurant where help is wanted and announce that I can begin at once and am handed an apron and a tiny palm computer that I pretend to use. I ask the dishwasher to teach me a tongue twister in Korean and when I repeat it, he laughs and says, "Perfect!" When I repeat it to customers, I am fired because the dishwasher taught me to say, "I urinated in the soup."
I'm still in the apron when I volunteer for a street performance and become part of a human train that a blindfolded man leaps over, and at the end am given a peck on the cheek and a puckered lily that grows limp in seconds. I look so sad, a mime hands me a balloon twisted into the shape of a balloon and a small child with crooked ponytails cries because she wants it to be her balloon. So I make it hers and she smiles at me and I pop it to hear her wail again, to sound the siren that returns me to shore. Her mother is aghast and I frantically try to piece the balloon together but I fear that it is gone for good.
I've gone too far.
I run out of the park pulling at my hair, pulling at my buttons, pulling at the railings to climb over the bridge. Maternal pull, being denser than any other pull, drags me into a bottomless dive and I understand Einstein's "happiest thought" as gravity peels off like sunburned skin, time bends and my weightless self plunges into the river. We gush backwards. I forget the tongue twister, drain the vodka, lose the shoes, drink mouthfuls of water as I swim and swim then crawl, my lungs carving the air for oxygen, aching for volume like a broken balloon. As someone who's travelled to eternity and back, a thing evaporated, gone thin, I condense around my bones. All drip and squelch I stagger over the grass and through the daisies then reach out desperately and take hold of the slender ankle teetering on the lofty branch.

Originally from New Jersey, Maria Poulatha lives in Athens, Greece with her husband and daughter. Her stories have appeared in Split Lip Magazine, Copper Nickel, SmokeLong Quarterly, Pithead Chapel, trampset and other lovely journals.