Sidetracked in Soil

Content Warning: Accidental death of nonhuman animals.

I am a middle-aged noise. My speech, annoying to some, is to others—and, at times, to me—a form of artwork. Maybe I am starting to turn partly into a hydrangea. Before winter, the one behind my house seemed content, because of all the rain. I want to take a lesson from the hydrangea and be happy with rain instead of fearful of flooding.

Whatever street it is, I tend to move worms out of the way after it rains. At my own home, if I notice any worms, I move them before I mow the lawn. If I see them as I am mowing, I also move them to safety.

Not long ago, I found a dead frog in the driveway. Its indigo insides had come out of its mouth. I have to accept that I probably killed it, given its location relative to the wheels of the car. I put it near the bushes in an area of open soil, and covered it with a spiky, lanky dandelion that I had clipped a few days prior. Then, it rained.

My father told me often how he wasn’t cut out for this world. Later on, I learned the Christian concept of being in but not of the world. I feel both in and of, sometimes neither. I worry about the carrots being pulled out of the ground. I know increasingly what my father meant, but I still prefer to hang around. Something has to die for me to live, but it doesn’t have to be me.

Days long and thick by the stoop. Those ice cream cones. Jacks thrown on the sidewalk. Bushy hedge edges. Frisbees. Other people’s skates. Pretzels and egg creams. Perched on porches. Watching stickball. Picked last for nearly every team. Mesmerized by the wavy rainbows on asphalt slick with oil and a thin fog. Hazy summer.

I had forgotten that my hair turned green one summer from swimming after using Sun-In.

A few years ago, the electricity in my garage and in the ballast above the kitchen sink stopped working. A thin trench was dug in the backyard. After the spark, and the removal of the ancient cable, the Master Electrician told me, “electricity wants to get back to mother earth, where it generated from, and that’s what the wire is doing, right there.” He said, “It wants to go back to where it came from.”

On a plane, I sat beside and conversed for an hour with someone who graduated from Rutgers University, 35 years before I did. We sang an RU cheer/fight song, as well as the school song, shortly before we parted company (I had just been singing the same song, the night before, for some friends).

In high school, she was a flautist in a prominent symphony orchestra. She studied sociology and psychology in college, and became a senior high school social studies teacher. Margaret Mead was her commencement speaker at Douglass College, in 1952. She used to see Albert Einstein on the Princeton campus.

We talked about how great she thinks it is that her church allows a gay organist to be in their employ. What matters, she noted, is that this person is talented — and they’re also great with kids. She has seven children, thirteen grandchildren, and seven great-grandchildren. Her youngest child is three years my senior. Upon learning my age, she quipped affectionately, “why, you’re only a little wisp of a girl.” It wasn’t the moment to tell her that I don’t always identify as a woman, that I’m gender nonconforming.

She volunteers to help people with Alzheimer’s in her church community. We talked about Einstein as a peace activist. I thought of and referenced anonymously my dear friend, Pete, with whom I have also talked about this subject. We discussed sociology, anthropology, folklore, music, politics, gerontological social work and nursing, interdependence, and family.

Three queens approached me on Pratt Street in Baltimore. One of the group asked me if I knew where the stripper place was. I said that I was sorry, but didn’t. They said they figured I wouldn’t, but thought they’d ask me, anyway. I apologized, again, and added that if we had been in a different city, I probably could have helped. Peals of laughter arose from the group. As we walked away from one another in opposite directions, I heard them say loudly to their mates, “I looooovvvvve her!!”

I was on the Greenwich Village streets and then in the subway in the immediate aftermath of the verdict in the Rodney King case. I was outraged and disgusted by the verdict; justice had not been served at that trial. As I saw people take to the streets, I was unhappy about the looting, but understood the angry response, not only as someone with white privilege who aims always to be an ally in the anti-racist struggle. My friends of Color from work encircled me on the train. An unforgettable kindness.

When I was a kid, I took a shoe box and cut a hole in the bottom, put tissue paper and other papers in it, perhaps even some cotton, then put my hand inside via the cut-out I had made, wrist resting and bent, put on the box lid, and introduced anyone nearby to Thing (from The Addams Family).

“Diaaaaaanne, why don’t you put on a little makeup? You’d look so pretty.”

I wasn’t picked last for volleyball—in my own yard. The Japanese blossoming cherry tree and the maple were the posts for our net. Sometimes, I even managed an ace serve. But not mostly.

Homophones are just so gay, as sounds or perhaps telecommunications equipment are concerned. And homonyms live in the woods. That makes them fairies. So, they’re gay, too. Should the homophones be allowed to marry the homonyms? Wait, I got sidetracked. Or, that’s what it’s called.

Published by:

Diane R. Wiener

Diane R. Wiener’s first full-length poetry collection, The Golem Verses, was published in 2018 by Nine Mile Press. Her poems appear in Nine Mile Magazine, Wordgathering, Tammy, Queerly, The South Carolina Review, and elsewhere. Poetry is forthcoming in the Welcome to the Resistance anthology; creative nonfiction is forthcoming in Stone Canoe. Diane’s flash fiction appears in Ordinary Madness (Weasel Press). After serving as Guest Editor for Nine Mile Literary Magazine’s Fall 2019 Special Double Issue on Neurodivergent, Disability, Deaf, Mad, and Crip poetics, Diane was appointed Assistant Editor for the magazine. In 2020, Diane became Editor-in-Chief of Wordgathering: A Journal of Disability Poetry and Literature. A Research Professor at Syracuse University, where she also teaches in the Honors program, Diane has published widely on disability, pedagogy, and empowerment, among other subjects.

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