Angels in Fallbrook

By Kit-Bacon Gressitt

Mama, what do angels look like?

This, my small kiddo asks. In the throes of divorce. Of making a game of beans and rice. Of sorrow. Of innocent query and wonderment. This she asks, but how shall I answer? What can I say that would not be a lie passing my lips?

In the speckled dark of a sleepless, starry sky, I sit on our hill as she chases shadows in the warm breeze and a coyote pauses beyond the fence that separates us. The hill is ours because we love it. I think it loves us. It makes paths for us around the rabbit holes, the tarantula borrows, the grainy mounds of queens and workers in constant toil. The People say it is a holy place; the altitude puts it a peedy bit closer to the gods. But I am distracted from the possibility of clutching a deity’s apron strings by whispered anguish calling to me from places I cannot pronounce and some I can.

Will the ashes of unwanted wives fertilize the next generation? Will tar balls become the tender of shrimpers and oyster folk? Will children who play with spent artillery shells transcribe the booming rhythm of war into the next amazing rap sensation? I search for hope amidst the moonlit carpet of rabbit turds, brown and rich, the prickly stubble of deer grass, recently shaved by a peon’s scythe, the manzanilla, its soothing ways unrecognized in the wild by those who buy it by the box.

The moon laughs at me and catches my girl, catches her dark curls and darker eyes, twirling into a glowing tornado, spiraling up toward the night, up into a future I fret I cannot affect, and my fear pulls her back to earth. The coyote howls across the hill, and answers echo from a distant canyon. I peer through the grasses to watch her, stymied by the impassable chain-link fence. A border to me, it cuts her world in half. And so she paces, her prey on the other side. And I chew a manzanilla bud, rub the tender skin beneath my skirt. The grass makes me itch. It makes me itch because I love to scratch. And so I scratch as I look out over our little town, ours because we scratch each other.

Why do I love it so here? How dare I raise my child in this place? This place of bitter anger and sweet Peruvian chocolate. Of testicle trees, our avocados, and shocking scarlet bottlebrushes. Of well-repressed, grey-green groves and lusciously chaotic words wending their way behind closed doors, between tussled sheets, into fearful hearts. The heat of conflict radiates from our bodies, our beds, our lands, entangling the legs of a bawdy blend. And I wonder, what’s not to love?

I lie in the dry grass, caressing the stars, eyes languid and wet, and I sense the loss of something, something I might not have ever wanted. The coyote, impatient with human encumbrances, glances at us and trots across the border, free to dine and commune with her own. My kiddo, delighted with discovering her ability to dance, moves deeper into the dark.

Angels? I call.

Oh, never mind, Mama. I just saw one!

And she spins, spins into the sweeping night. Soars out of reach. She is gone. Gone.

Love, K-B

© 2010 Kit-Bacon Gressitt

This piece is crossposted at The Progressive Post.

Note: Painting by Kate Gressitt-Diaz.