October 2, 2017 by The Citron Review
by Jennifer Battisti
Outside, the rain against the playground is heavy and decisive. Small rivers are forming in the basin of the water fountain. We will not line up today. The blacktop, slick with afternoon showers, tells us we will stay in our blue plastic chairs.
The monkey bars that stain our palms with the scent of sour pennies now house small globes of water, pendulous magic, before dropping them into the sand below and releasing the smell of fresh earth. The red dodge balls stay huddled in their net, stacked in the closet with the crisp brown and green paper that makes trees grow in the corners of the classroom, felt birds glued to the leaves. The tip of my young thumb throbs in that third-grade way, while my face burrows into the flesh of the inside of my arm, until blackness blots out the primary colors and textures.
Rain makes choices.
Our small village of arithmetic and careful cursive is set aside for Heads Up, Seven Up, a game for rare days when water is attentive—every rock, stem, branch equally smothered. I feel awkward doing the exact thing my classmates are doing, as if I am not made of bones and fears or that the order of mine, so bright, cannot know anyone else’s.
My eager thumb waits, for recognition—to be chosen in a sea of other thumbs. My greedy thirst for affirmation is a large hole in a small bowl. And if the quick heat flashes against the craving curve of my opposable pieces, I will feel solid in my body—here for a moment, clenched by the metal arm holding my desk, its hollow belly echoing back my existence. I will curl my thumb into the clasp of my pointer and ring fingers in celebration. I will hide my smile in the stacked and coiled seams of my arms.
At some point, wanting becomes too turbulent a force and I learn to hustle the game. If I position my eye to see without being seen, I can catch a glimpse of a sneaker or Mary Jane, and place the shoe with the student. Belonging will secure me to what seems contained and right. Cheating this rain game is the requirement for approval—the being chosen inhibits my own choosing altogether. If I win, I’ll be one of the seven to stand at the front and be a chooser, but this will leave me stranded, like lightning with no rod. The choosing will not be as satisfying as being chosen.
Not until much later, near the center of my life, after the drought I’ve placed on myself turns to a deluge of worthiness capable enough to spilt the molecule of necessity, will thirst go much like it came—demanding and definite.
Jennifer Battisti, a Las Vegas native, studied creative writing at the College of Southern Nevada. Her poetry has been published in the anthology Legs of Tumbleweed, Wings of Lace, as well as 300 Days of Sun, the Red Rock Review, the Desert Companion, Minerva Rising, and elsewhere. In 2016, KNPR interviewed her about her poetry. Her forthcoming chapbook, Echo Bay, will be available in 2018. She is the secretary and workshop facilitator for the Las Vegas Poets Organization.