birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

All things, all at once

I do my best to piece it together from fragments, the mirror—all the mirrors—all the stories. “Not one thing or the other, all things all at once.”

The masculine: active, hunter-gatherer, the sun, the Son, the creative, the pursuer, the catalyst, the trickster with winged heels. The feminine: the receptive, the womb, the Moon, the nest, the cultivator, the soil that holds the seeds, the hidden, the night sky that contains universes, god herself. All that. Why leave any of it out?

What the father says: “I’m not coming to see the baby unless it’s a girl.” (He wants a girl first. He wants her to be there to take care of the boy when everyone else leaves.) “You can do anything you want.” “You look pretty when you cry.” (That always makes me stop.) “Take care of your brother.” (His first word is my name.) 

What the mother says: “Don’t ever get married.” (She cried on her honeymoon. “I knew it was a mistake.) “Don’t ever have kids. It ruined my life.” “Be sure you can support yourself.” “Don’t trust men.” “Don’t give up your freedom.” “Don’t believe a word they say.”

So: not like that. Not like them. (The surest way there.)

I Campfire Girl, I Brownie, I sit on the porch with Annie Slattery and watch her six brothers and sisters go in and out. Her mother makes cinnamon rolls, her father fixes cars and goes fishing, takes them all in the camper. No part seems better than the other. They have Virgin Mary all over the house, and no one says she’s watching them all the time like God. She’s with them. I want Toni Permanent hair and pink curling rods. (It never happens.) I have matching purses and hats. I have the biggest feet of all my friends and they’re thin so only saddle shoes fit, not the cute ones. I want to be little and giggling, but I don’t want to be them. I bike ride and read and want a turquoise Olivetti typewriter. I play paper dolls, collect rocks, cut out advice columns, send away for coupons because I like to get mail, cover my room with maps torn out of workbooks. My best friend writes a book about a mountain lion. The girls are the smartest in the school, we’re the top of the class when we finally leave, 1, 2, 3. Roxanne, Patti and me. 

In our rooms we don’t boy or girl, we read Lord of the Rings and listen to records. We plan our escape from all this. My best friend keeps a bag packed and looks for opportunities. She has six abortions later on. I feel weak to hear it, taste the diluted sickbed broth and tears. Not like that. Not like that.

The men are gone. The women hold each other up, hold everything up. The only thing I want to be is free from all that. The burdens and the ones who leave them. I pledge allegiance to words, to art. Whatever it wants to be. Boy, girl, boy, girl, boy, girl. 

First job

Cuz I'm a Girl