Growing Up in a Basement by Jeff Burt
Galvanized water pipes three-quarter inch soft to sight like crushed gravel beneath the soft soles, six and twelve inch ducting dull silver, a few copper tubes. Nails, chalk marks, a plumber’s hieroglyphics, and two Lego Men hidden years before and forgotten, staring down onto the tan futon couch and the bleached wicker chairs that live in the basement in winter, Lego men waiting for someone to remember them, repurpose in play, waiting for a hand to surround them, palm-fold them with want. I live in those basement ceilings. I want what the Lego men want.
We persisted, thin and hungry boys like whips snapping every time we moved, ticking like windy branches annoyed by night, stagnant in the algae of a carpet remnant, bright and rank, lake eels that swam teeth exposed by lips opened by jaws set forward like maws of bulldozers, shirts inked, bannered, camouflaged, the barbells with silver weights the shining fangs of the dog to our soft underbellies. We dragged our knuckles. We lifted.
It was spring. It rained. We went to the basement. When no one was looking, we took the Scarecrow from the Halloween storage, did Dorothy’s dance on the Yellow Brick Road, listened to April tulips sing on the side of the road. We didn’t want to see a wizard. We desired to hoof it, kick our legs in synch, not look for hope or solutions, but be uplifted by our own feet. Silly, our parents called it, but not with the force of either disapproval or acceptance. They were afraid. We danced because the tulips could not, and the tulips sang better than we did.
Jeff Burt lives in Central California with his wife and works in mental health.