P walks into the room holding a small cardboard box in front of her, arms straight like a ring bearer. “I have a surprise for you,” she sets the box, covered in sparkly stickers, beside me. I open the lid and find nine red-orange cherry tomatoes. They are dusty, still warm from the sun. P grins at my amazement, smells like the garden. Later that night as I sit down on her bed, she leans over and kisses me and I say, “What a wonderful surprise.” Her face stays close to mine. “As wonderful as tomatoes?”

The girls drag stones into a circle at the base of the green slide, collect seed pods for soup, run to the school bathroom to fill an old plastic bottle with cooking water. At suppertime I find them, comment first on the dirt smeared across foreheads, caked between fingers, streaked on legs. M asks why I care so much about being clean. I’m ashamed at how far I’ve traveled from enchantment.

A jacaranda tree blooms above the driveway. I climb into a car covered in purple flowers, feel regal and celebrated.

J wears white tights trimmed with stained lace, gaping holes at both knees. I make a silent commitment to throw them out the next time I find them in the laundry. A moment later, she walks on tiptoes and announces that these are her favourite pants. Then I remember my own jeans shredded at the knees, long arguments with a mother who wanted to throw them away, remember writing in my journal that when I died, I wanted to be buried in the jeans with the holes in the knees.

This grey morning, I sit on the porch with eyes tired from last night’s tears and read Mary Oliver…

Sometimes the great bones of my life feel so heavy,
and all the tricks my body knows-
the opposable thumbs, the kneecaps,
and the mind clicking and clicking-

don’t seem enough to carry me through this world
and I think: how I would like

to have wings-
blue ones-
ribbons of flame.


(from “Spring Azures”)
 

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I am a Canadian, living, writing, and mothering in Nairobi, Kenya. I’ve never been able to choose just one angle or genre for my writing, which is why it has all found its home here at my one person collective.

Thanks for reading.

Kirsten Penner Krymusa

We play Who’s Afraid of the Big Black Bear around the house at dusk, hide behind hedges and banana trees. I remember playing the same game thirty years ago on Manitoba farm yards, remember Lisa jumping out from behind old tractors, her older brothers roaring in the dark. P chases Phil around the trampoline but laughs so hard she falls to the ground, pees through her pants. I carry her to the bathtub where the water turns orange from the dirt on her feet.

J and P bike down the gravel road to recruit playmates while M organizes the playroom, writes nametags on small squares of paper, arranges baskets for seats behind the piano bench desk. She lays out markers, erasers, writes out the rules for using scissors and a strict discipline plan. When her sisters return without friends, M runs outside, bangs a stick against the shed wall, her sobs of disappointment floating to me through the kitchen window.

I hold a newborn baby, thick flannel wrapped over his jacket and pants despite the sweltering heat of the dry season. His name is Goodluck Nick, his mother is radiant, proud.

I walk to a roadside flower stand. Plastic buckets hold bunches of roses, calla lilies, flowers I have no name for. The metal frame built for shade has no canopy, so two men lounge nearby on the sloping ditch beneath a flame tree. One of the men jumps up to greet me, gathers red roses into a careful bouquet, chops at their stems with a machete he keeps soaked in water. Wooden birds painted yellow and blue hang from brown thread tied to thin branches. I buy one. It swings against my legs as I walk home on the dusty pavement, carrying roses like a bride.

The girls walk to school without bending their knees. J admits, “I wouldn’t be very good at not having knees.” Another thing we had forgotten to be grateful for.