i was young and blonde and
with how life worked.
the beginning and the end
and the frothing mess in-between.
the stage of childhood
where everything is questions,
the neverending "why" that
rings in parents' ears
why do you use a turn signal
why can't i eat cookies for dinner
why do i have to die, mom,
i don't want to
i'm scared.

i questioned death the most but wisely kept my
to myself.
i played doctor with daddy's
chair and stethoscope,
practicing my surgeon voice
as i pulled barbie's head off and
waited for the decay. dolls do not
collapse into rigor mortis
nor do they bleed. i sought out a more
fitting experiment.
the backyard glowed with grass and buds and life then,
before my brother and i began digging holes
digging for bodies and China and
the small goat figurine i had lost in the living room.
the yard was still reeking of life, and where there is
and seedlings and freshly-tossed soil
are bugs. another thing i pondered,
little beings thriving in microcosms so hidden
that i smashed cities in one step.
the centipedes and earthworms and fireflies and ants
became my friends, their earless heads tilting up to
listen to my immature musings.
they were the next step in my
quest to learn death.

i wore all white to be sterile and adult
and made my patient a file, purple gluestick
and printer paper hiding Lisa Frank from my
nurses and looked starched and important in the
grass where i tossed it.
she was nervous, my patient,
the fur-like covering on her back
twitching as she scooted across my file-
her file-
maybe to hold her mother's hand one more time
and to hear her say "you'll be fine," once more
before she succumbed to my scalpel and
taught me a life lesson.
i held the caterpillar in my grubby palm, poised and clean
and bored, certified. i began.
her head was impossibly small between my fingers,
and the effort to decapitate was minimal. i set her
head beside her body and watched the life in her
twist her body into a question mark, her head the
touch of punctuation, as if to ask

life and death.