Spring 2011, #17


Gordon and Martha: Roof

     by Deborah Woodard

Gordon's dream: In slightly slippery fashion, he climbed 20 flights of pillows to get to the roof. Martha tagged all over, vandalizing. Gordon awoke and kept his knees drawn up to his chest. How did Martha imagine his face and hair? Was he unkempt? Lilac florets in thin bunches were swaying side to side in the courtyard, conducting the stream of traffic. In Moscow, committed roofers cracked codes and slipped behind grillwork. Gordon inspected his clothes. Were they pathetic, or wrinkled from the chase? He knew his sister Martha was a prodigy. Her tags knit together an entire glade of brownstones. Martha pushed several buttons, then vanished into the elevator. A cat squirmed against the serrated bricks. Gordon worked on his video piecemeal. Often, he struggled to remember how to write in lines. Martha's tattoos resembled sallow trees on the glistening street under pen strokes of rain. Gordon thought of himself as a letter carrier, used to the tumblers of a lock. Now Martha was in her slip, 14 floors up, melting ink and sugar over a Bunsen burner.

The blue pail on the fire escape was a symptom of myopia. Graffiti was the most legitimate form of communication, finding its shape without a hostess. Alert and self-contained, Gordon resembled Columbus, Magellan, or Amundsen. The roofs were his unbroken prairie.