Gone Lawn
a journal of word-things
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Gone Lawn 54
worm moon, 2024

Featured artwork, Capitol Reef Wash, by Kathleen Frank

new works

Esmé Kaplan-Kinsey


When I was a baby, I was so small that Mom carried me in a little vintage purse slung around her neck. The purse is faded teal velvet, and she still keeps it hanging off the knob of her dresser drawer. Mom says I was so quiet when I was born that she could walk into anywhere with that purse and no one would know she had a baby in there until she pulled me out, held me cupped in her hands, and then everyone would gather around and say, wow, that’s the smallest baby I’ve ever seen. They would say, how did you make a creature so tiny, so perfect? Ten lovely fingers as long as grains of rice. Toenails like sesame seeds. Or maybe this is not what they said, but this is what Mom says they said. Mom is very committed to the consumption of whole grains and natural products so it’s possible that she’s editorializing because the comparison between my body grown in her body and the production of cereal crops makes her happy, and I am okay with that.
But now I am fourteen, and I am not small anymore. I have started to stretch in the night. I wake up in a sideways slant of moonlight and hear my bones creaking like the trunks of growing trees. In the morning I roll out of bed and my limbs don’t fit together. I have started hitting my head on the doorframe every afternoon when I come home from school, and now I have a semi-permanent lump on my skull. Mom always hears the thump of it from where she’s working at the table and runs to the refrigerator to toss me a bag of frozen peas. I believe I’ll look back at this time in my life as one in which I was forever holding cold vegetables to my forehead.
Once a week after school, I mow the lawn. It is my newest way of helping Mom out and I am happy to do it, but I’m not very good so it comes out all shaggy and uncertain. The grass is tall and the little grass seeds stick to my jeans and follow me everywhere. I think I’ll look back at this year of my life as a time in which I was always covered in hitchhiking seeds and in which I was developing certain important values regarding the value of family. But I will phrase it better, when I look back on it. I am learning how to use the weed whacker to decimate the thistles that grow under our fence. The machine shakes my whole body to the bones. It is very enjoyable despite the extreme discomfort.
Soon I will brave the chainsaw and cut down the maple sapling that Mom’s been trying to dig out since last summer. When I am a man, I think I would like to be a man who knows how to use a chainsaw. Also, I’d like to know how to bake a loaf of bread, and how to keep a dying thing alive, and how to paint a landscape realistically, like a window into the air, and how to start a fire and how to kickbox like a kangaroo and how to play a little piano, enough to impress a girl at a party, and how to make a move on said girl respectfully so she still feels seen as a person, and how to put a dying thing out of its misery, and how to read a map, properly, so that I can get just where I’m trying to go. I’m not sure what this will really mean for my future but at least it should make for an interesting sort of life. I would very much like to have an interesting and meaningful life, and one day I tell Mom this, while I am scribbling over my math homework in frustration because none of the symbols mean anything. I tell her I want to be as tall as the ozone layer and knock planes out of the sky with my fists. I want to leap from continent to continent like a tropical storm. Mom is cooking buckwheat pasta and she is very focused on getting the noodles to boil to the correct texture. She says, absentmindedly, you’ll get there soon. You’re growing up so fast. I remember when you used to fit right into my purse.

Esmé Kaplan-Kinsey is a California transplant studying creative writing in Portland, Oregon. Their work appears or is forthcoming in publications such as Beaver Magazine, JMWW and SoFloPoJo, and has been recognized by the National YoungArts Foundation and the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards. They are a prose reader for VERDANT, as well as a mediocre guitarist, an awe-inspiring procrastinator, and a truly terrible swimmer. They can be found on X/Instagram @esmepromise.