The smell of fresh woodchips inseparable
from phantom pains of scraped knees and raw hands–
trophies for clinging to the chains of the singing swing set
and tumbling to the ground, time after time,
in countless failed attempts to fly.
There was drought that year:
Suddenly the sprinkler in the yard disappeared,
as did the slate of the flagstone walkway,
obscured by dried-up worms seeking relief
from the dusty, depleted soil,
only to broil in the oven of that summer.
The grass imitated the worms: brown, lifeless, bone-dry,
so she took to the swings to teach herself to fly
to new worlds, far from dead grass and dried worms–
but never succeeded. Gravity held firm,
and the smell of the woodchips that padded her crash-landings
became embedded in the folds of her brain.
Yet, when summer days came to an end
and the limp, brown blades of grass long-dead
whitened in the first frost,
her father got a tarp (from whatever magical place parents store things,)
and pulled her along – no scraped knees or chafed palms.
They soared across the yard to a world with fresh grass
and a clean flagstone path.
Years after the swing set
had been turned into a garden shed,
she’d remember that day she learned
to spread her wings and fly far away.