Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsFall 2017  Vol. 16 No. 2
an online journal of literature and the arts
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Baba Yaga Invites Fort Worth Girl Scout Troop #23 for a Campout
An overnight trip in the great outdoors brings you closer to nature—and to your Girl Scout sisters. . . .
You might watch a sky full of stars, cook a meal on a stick, or share silly stories around the campfire.

—Junior Outdoors Badge: Camper

Dear girls: It’s normal to feel afraid at first
in the woods: trees can resemble strange old men
with too many damp arms,
and no light snaps on when it senses motion.
Most of your life, you’ll find, is like that.
Which is sometimes fortunate, sometimes sex-standing-up-
in-the-dark-in-a-cell-of-an-island-fort with tourists
passing just outside, oblivious, bleary
from snorkeling. There won’t be a badge for that.
There won’t be a badge for a lot of things. If you want safety,
you might think again
about your Planet Set. That pretty pink tent
stitched to the moon
is clearly military surplus, big enough for a family
of refugees. Some people never go home. Some
turn into sticks, tell silly stories: Remember
when we didn’t have canvas for walls? Don’t worry.
These are first-world woods. A few Texas pines,
a man-made lake. The campfire smells like a PG forest fire, turns the air
all jittery. Or maybe the air turns the fire: embers
like ladybugs swarming a collapsing log.
Didn’t you earn Science & Technology? You know then
about the topsy-turvy physics of roller coasters.
That may or may not help you.
There’s no badge for remembering facts
at useless times. No badge for the things you can do
with your hands when you’re frightened.
Your postcards call What a good time, what a good time
ahead of yourself
like you’re chasing yourself. It’s easy to lose sight
of perspective. That’s why you have music.
That’s why you all sing
“Love of my life, I am crying, I am not dying, I am dancing
dancing along in the madness, there is no sadness,
only the song of the soul.” Doesn’t that sound nice?
Just look at the stars. Just listen to somebody’s mother
strum guitar to mean you, you, you in chords everyone also
recognizes. There’s no badge to prepare you
for the ways this is not preparation.
The woods are self-cleaning. Meaning even sound
dies. Meaning bugs, bones, pine needles
stitching earth to earth
like bridges stitch island to island in the Florida Keys.
Mosquitoes blur the air like you’re riding fast-
drunk in a future car. Your friend is driving—steering
with his knees as he pours himself whiskey, tells
stories of playing saxophone on cruise ships. Look
at the stars,
you’ll say, leaning your head back. They look like brass, like fire
glowing in the middle of the wilderness of sea. Girls:
You’ll set every log so carefully this first time
someone teaches. Crisscrossing, tamping
down the last hot embers. You’ll, most of you,
outlive your own decisions.  

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