Gone Lawn
a journal of word-things
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Gone Lawn 55
strawberry moon, 2024

Featured artwork, Lost for Words, by Andrea Damic

new works

Joshua McKinney


See the child. A toddler toddling in a parking lot. She wears a pink hoodie and sucks a rubber nipple. Watch as her gaze drifts down, drawn to the motion of the dark figure that moves when she moves. Observe her moment of recognition. She starts, begins to run with short, stiff-legged, unsteady steps, but the thing she, now, for the first time, sees, is tethered to her and pursues. She spits her pacifier out and screams and runs and looks behind her where the dark thing was, but her relation to the light has changed and now the figure looms before her. She stops short, screams again, backs up, trips, falls. “Terrified little girl hilariously tries to escape her shadow”—the reel ends there. But we know the rest, don’t we? The child will grow, will, in time, almost forget that dark, elastic other that she will learn to own. It’s a lesson we all had to learn, and so we find it funny and must laugh. More than funny. The kind of hilarity only terror can evoke.


While a half-dozen mourners hummed my father’s favorite song, we carried that plastic box, my mother and I, out into the desert where he liked to hike, each of us taking a turn, each of us startled at its weight, and we scattered fistful after fistful of ash and grit and tiny bits of bone among the juniper, sage, and stone until the box was empty. Then we buried the box and went home. Now, forty years later, I’m sitting in my car after a trip to the dentist, my face numb, staring down at my open palms, at my splayed and trembling fingers, remembering the feel of what a life had been reduced to as it sifted through my grasp and onto the ground. My God, what happened? What happened to the gold in his teeth?

Joshua McKinney lives in the fire-ravaged region known as California, where he spends his time wrangling a pet guinea pig and trying, feebly, to play the five-string banjo. An amateur lichenologist, he is a long-standing member of the California Lichen Society. For the past thirteen years he has served as co-editor of the online ecopoetics zine, Clade Song.