A North Pond Ridge

Author | John Franklin Dandridge

That was no spider next to my eye lying on the pillow. It
was just a feather. And yet, I leapt from the bed, anyway. The bed, 
which had grown many times its size in the time I’d lied there
debating whether or not I should even wake up. 
The least I could do was jump up. 
Oh, you would’ve loved the way I fell, too: 
one limb at a time, tumbling into memories with the shifting
of sheets and blankets, until the past wrestled me into submission
and I could no longer stay suspended above the floor. I might’ve
just crawled to the corner and kept crying, but it was occupied
by a centipede in need of escape, so I chased it
down the hallway and cornered it into another corner. 
You know me. 
I don’t mind killing centipedes. Whether it be with the heel
of my slipper, smashing their asses against the floorboards, 
or by way of spray specific to ants, I’ll plant
them in the trash without so much as a useless funeral. 
But then I remembered you used to be
a centipede, so I scooped it up in my hands and went outside
to drag it down to the ducks, despite signs saying
not to feed the animals. Last thing I wanted was to be seen
crying in public, but it wasn’t to be a long journey at all. 
I cupped my face up to the sun to dry and the centipede shook
loose from my grip, yet slipped into the bill of a goose instead. 
With the minimum length of my longing, I longed
only of returning to bed, but came upon a North Pond bridge.
There are several, but this one I favor most.
It bends and bubbles under the skyline, separating the city
from switchgrass. It’s where rats are extinct and all the hippest
turtles come listen to frogs whisper. 
Remember when I used to be a frog? 
You still hear those whispers from many seasons ago? 
For the words, “Just because you’re happy, doesn’t mean it isn’t real,” 
have played on a loop in my internal dialogue
ever since leaving my lips and landing on your ear. 
Will I still return here when the frogs tuck their bellies under the mud? 
When the turtles burrow into their underwater castles? 
Will my footprints stamp the snowy patches latching onto these winding
pathways ornamented with icicle branches? Or will I be a ghost roaming
towards the warm glow of street lanterns, ruing days long past
when I was too heavy to ride the vibration of cicadas, too fragile
to straddle the backs of bunny rabbits? If only there were a way to adorn
those spider webs back home with the same light I found on the bridge that day. 
Perhaps you would become a rabbit who meets me on the path leading
from my footstep hill. It wouldn’t be such a long journey, at all. 

About the Author | John Franklin Dandridge received his M.F.A. in Poetry from Columbia College Chicago. His chapbook of poems, Further Down Rd., was published in 2010 by Fast Geek Press. He has poems published in past or upcoming issues of Callaloo Journal, Cerurove, 12 Point Collective and Former People. Franklin lives and writes near the North Pond in Chicago.

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