Elizabeth Schmuhl

Contraction: con·trac·tion [kuh n-trak-shuh n] Noun 1. The air is out and all the candy has been shaken onto the floor. Kids are crying and hands are dirty. Go wash your hands, an authoritative woman says. The kids ignore her and run past all the barricades, into the moonlight, which is fuzzy and white. The dance goes on and the mud is pressed. People begin to throw beans and they sprout in the air. A harvest is in order so all begin to work. Corn for muffins; grain for bread. There is an animal in the field: the crafty fox who knows about the food, the meal. He sneaks past stalks to steal. Tiny people run up and down the minds of everyone on scene, they run with string and are lacing spines to hearts to pelvic girdles. All anyone sees is moonlight and something warm stirring inside. It’s pouting tulips leaves. It’s poppying seed faces with puckered mouths. Tea falls from trees and out of the corner here comes the truck with all its possibilities. Things, people, fox: all are transported. The feast is in sight. A long drive down a country road to a log cabin filled with the glow of candles. Mother has the table set and everyone who matters is at the meal. There is laughter that won’t stop until smiles fall off faces and people pack up their mouths to place under their pillows for whatever fairies they’ve been singing to during their life’s sleep. When sleep comes tonight, all this will repeat, so that everyone’s life is squeezed and tight, so that everything stirring stirs and then falls silent, because in silence, there is much noise. 2. A bowl is never empty, there is air filling it and, depending on the weather, it can be petulant or irritated. Rain is always inevitable and if you look up like you’re supposed to, you’ll see the clouds parting. Inside the bowl, the air keeps moving. Don’t think; there is no stasis. 3. Feel the roots; they swim in the soil. They are tracing the wrinkles of your face. The skin hums and lolls.