Tuesday, April 16, 2013

call the moon

He slipped from the bedroom and navigated the cluttered hallway—Maggie’s easels and paintboxes took up a lot of space, even after she tried to tidy up, but he was good with that. Her work made her happy, portraits in oils or acrylics of families, children, treasured pets. Once in the living room he began to slip on his clothes. As he dressed the moon rose in his mind, full and shining. Drifting above the Earth, it waited for him and that’s what he would do right now, head for the moon. Taking a long walk to the river would clear his head and until the cold reached too deep into his bones, he would lean back against a tree there and wait for the grandmother to come looking for him. Nookomis, grandmother, is what the anishinaabeg call the moon in the original language, the one that slipped away from his family in his grandmother’s generation, hanging on now in just a handful of words and vague memories.

He eased the apartment door shut, heard the lock catch, then headed up the stairs and made his way outside. The cold night rushed into his warm lungs and made him cough. He’d sought after things like sleep long enough, so tonight he’d seek nothing and just walk. He made his way down the icy city sidewalks, heading for a place he knew in the woods below the Franklin Avenue bridge. It was a strange place, those city woods along the river. Tall trees grew dense along the bluff there and filtered some of the light and sound of the city away. The ground beneath them was littered with broken liquor bottles as well as beaver chewed stumps, and the tree trunks and the nearby bridge piers were tagged and re-tagged by spray can kids. “Is anyone happy here?” one kid had scrawled on a fallen tree in brown paint. At times, the area was peopled by drunks and raccoons and coyotes, while at other times it held the ghosts of suicides and the dark chatter of noisy crows. It was a place where seeming opposites became one another; what were the spray can kids if not chattering crows? Robinson often found it was the right place to be for an Indian who didn’t know what an Indian was, but he had never gone there on such a cold night before. Still, the cold was no matter so long as nookoomis found him.

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