Sue D. Burton
Sand & Ostrich at the Beach
SAND ADMONISHES OSTRICH FOR STICKING HER HEAD IN THE SAND EVEN THOUGH, NON-FIGURATIVELY SPEAKING, OSTRICHES DON’T STICK THEIR HEADS IN THE SAND—THEY JUST BLEND IN—
but Sand is in a bad mood & extinction is coming & Ostrich has done nothing about it. & Ostrich will go first. Why won’t Ostrich admit she’ll go first? Ostrich has a lovely sand-colored head & neck—a lovely sand-colored blend-in color—& Sand thinks Ostrich’s body looks like an adorable rock on the beach. But a lovely neck has no history of saving the world. Sand is in a bad mood. She wants to fly like seaweed on the waves. She wants to whip up in the air & forget about extinction. Ostrich doesn’t ever want to think about extinction. She is only an ostrich, after all. What does Sand want her to do? Sand will be around anyway. Post-Ostrich. So what’s it to her? But Sand & Ostrich love each other. & now Ostrich is in a bad mood & extinction is coming & she can’t fly either. But she is the fastest runner of all the birds, of all the two-leggeds even, & she takes off down the beach. She has long skinny legs—an adorable rock on stilts—& she runs down, then up the beach, flicking her big toes & making Sand fly. She runs & she sings—the Chinese opera & Maria, Maria from West Side Story & the wail the subway makes pulling into a station— though she has never been to China or to New York & has never heard a subway.
A DAY AT THE BEACH WITH SAND & OSTRICH
OSTRICH HAS NEVER BEEN ANYWHERE BUT THE SAVANNA, EXCEPT WHEN SHE & SAND WENT TO THE BEACH & SAND DIDN’T WANT TO COME HOME
But she did. Because of Ostrich. The savanna is dull. No seaweed. Ostrich is watching TV. Big fires in California, she says.
Oh, says Sand.
Because they hogged all the water, Ostrich says.
They? says Sand.
Yes, says Ostrich.
The people who want to extinct us?
Yes, says Ostrich. Those People. Ostrich flaps her wings, small as they are. We should go to California, she says.
They’ll throw you in a zoo, Sand says. They’ll make you into a hat.
NEXT, SAND’S TURN TO SAVE THE WORLD, SO OSTRICH WON’T BE MADE INTO A HAT—
Sand is afraid to turn on TV. She knows how impressionable she is. Ostrich is off running in the savanna. Lion land. Lions = Those People. Would eat Ostrich. But Ostrich has a powerful kick. Long skinny legs & a powerful kick. Sand is home waiting for Ostrich. Sand hates waiting. Her parched side takes over. Ostrich is just so, so—mobile. Sometimes Ostrich fears she’ll be smothered by Sand, but Sand is afraid, always, she’ll be left in the dust. While she’s waiting, Sand thinks about California. How to get through customs. Californians are hyper about foreign soil. Obsessed with keeping their artichokes pure. Ostrich could hide her in a neck pillow. But how could Ostrich get through customs? Maybe California isn’t the place to start. But Sand doesn’t want to start at home. She’d have to save the lions then.
OSTRICH MAKES A JOKE: SHE COULD GO THROUGH CUSTOMS MASQUERADING AS A SHOE, BUT SAND DOESN’T LAUGH
Trouble afoot. Ostrich wants a family. She wants a chick.
Not a good idea to bring a chick into an extinctionizing world, says Sand. Wind blowing from the south all afternoon. Sand feels unsettled.
We can’t give in to Those People, Ostrich says.
The chick will be with you when I’m out running, Ostrich says.
Oh, says Sand.
You can teach the chick about sandcastles.
Oh, says Sand.
THEN THERE’S THE MATTER OF FERTILIZING THE EGG
There’s a nice rooster, Ostrich says, who offered.
Sand is feeling inert. The summer has been exceptionally hot, & lately Sand hasn’t been sleeping well, thinking about the lions.
We could use a plastic drinking straw, Ostrich says.
It’s hard for Sand to cry. She isn’t sure if she should try to or not to.
Very clinical, Ostrich says.
What if he gets attached? Sand says.
It’s just another egg to him, Ostrich says. He’s done hundreds.
What if you get attached? Sand says.
SAND READS UP ON ATTACHMENT & STRAWS
In the 1800s attachment was mentioned nearly twice the mentionings in 1950, though mention is somewhat up this year.
In 1888 the paper drinking straw was invented. Some guy thought his old straw made of rye grass turned his mint julep grassy.
God helps those who help themselves.
The first known straw was Sumerian, 3,000 B.C.E., gold & lapis lazuli. Presumably used for drinking beer.
These days straws have unprecedented uses.
These days drinking straws glom in plastic tangles in the ocean.
Entanglement—one of those sub-genres of attachment. Or dys-genres.
A TREATISE ON ATTACHMENT THEORY & MIND/BODY DUALITY
Sand thinks about secure vs. anxious-preoccupied.
At night, when the lions are out & roaring, she’s an a-p.
In the afternoon, the lions snooze & she’s an s.
Ostrich is always an s.
Ostrich can kick. Her lions aren’t metaphoric.
Sand thinks about her mother saying don’t be silly when Sand was little & read about goiter & was scared she’d get it. You have plenty of iodine, her mother said, & a vivid imagination.
Sometimes Sand thinks I’m all brain.
The sun is up, but Ostrich is hiding her head under a blanket.
The egg didn’t hatch, she says.
But Sand had gotten used to the idea of the chick. She would teach the chick how to make castles. She would teach the chick how to spell her name with a stick.
Ostrich lays her head on Sand. Her head & neck are sand-colored & adorable, her silvery mating feathers faded.
I’m tired, Ostrich says.
Would have. Would have taught.
Sand is older than Ostrich, & she remembers Ostrich as a chick. Big-eyed & giggly.
Sand presses into Ostrich. Tomorrow is another day, she says.
Sue D. Burton’s BOX, selected by Diane Seuss for the Two Sylvias Press Poetry Prize, was awarded Silver in the Foreword INDIES Poetry Book of the Year (2018) and was a finalist for the 2019 Vermont Book Award. She is also the author of Little Steel (Fomite Press) and was awarded Fourth Genre’s Steinberg Prize.