this is how to prove a reindeer belongs to you.

this is how to prove a reindeer belongs to you. -vendela vida

it wears the collar you made, braided from sweet springtime water grass, sappy cottonwood buds jingling like bells.

it comes running at the sound of your voice. "come," you might say. or, "please." or, "i want." "i need." or, "please, please, again."

it has your name tattooed over its heart. tangle of inky vines drawn from the memory of a dream of climbing.

when it accepts an award, it says, "and finally, i'd like to thank you. without you, none of this would be possible." the crowd weeps and claps with adoration for this kind of love.

its cell phone lists you as an emergency contact.

it knows the smell of you in the snow. recognizes your footprints in a crowd of footprints.

it leaves tracks on your skin, hoofmarks, pawprints, sweaty palms, lipstick, furs in your tangled bedsheets. it lets you pull the burrs from its nape, licks the salt from your skin, is always with you at christmas.


go inside and find something. close your eyes and shove your head in the hole in that tree.honey, bees, spiderweb. decay. nut casings, smooth hollow trunk, there is something here. skittering, branches creaking. you remember the sound of freezing sap in an ice storm. the sudden slide of a week's worth of snow, rushing off the roof. you wake from the dream of ducking, finding cover. you fast sidle against the wall. you find the opening, squeeze your shrinking body between the bricks. you are mortar, you are paste, you are spit mixed with dirt, you are sand castle, sea dollar, sea snake, tsunami, rage of storm. you are house on stilts, hollow log, bee hive, honey.


but the language of the body. words i used to know: sternum, clavicle, wingbuds, yes, rib joinery. delicious words to tell the stories of being alive in my body. arch, press, slide. swell. i could look in the mirror and want. i remember that kind of wanting. that easy play with words tumbling fast into play with body.

little girl on a swing, armload of black-eyed susans, sucking the syrup from a homemade sno-cone.

the words come heavy, resolute, dead jellyfish on a stormed-over beach. poke it with a stick, pile of jellywords, viscous. poisonous, maybe. poke it with a stick, tear a hole, jam my fingers there. dig deep, believe it is possible there is still a twitching tentacle there. believe it is possible my fingers will sting and swell and my first instinct will be to shove my fist in my mouth.

(3 ten-minute freewrites from 2009)