The mother bunny rips out her fur
to make the nest for her kits, the woman
in the baby animal barn tells us.
“Sounds about right,” I think,
the weight of my toddler digging
into my hip, her biting insistence in my ear.
“We go playground now?”
she begs, in a voice finely tuned
to evoke maximum distress,
As I try to cajole her into petting
the eager, soft baby animals
I paid ten dollars to let her see.
Flat-topped, stunted trees and a stark blue sky.
A dutiful crunch: our sneakers on rocks.
I tighten my thin hood against a sudden
October gust, slashing across the worn mountaintop.
The windblown landscape is fringed
with ruby-leafed, blunt-tipped bushes;
towering stones with brushed edges:
toppled stacks of pavers for giants.
Our path trudges along, stretched
Wide as though compressed by the sun.
We watch another couple ahead of us
stop, embrace, kiss.
They are still kissing.
We both avert our eyes, examine the shrubs.
Do they realize we are here?
Eventually, their mouths separate.
They continue on hand in hand.
We follow, silently marveling
at this windy, sky-scraped terrain.
Put the Snowman Away
He’s waiting at the playground, during a snow flurry.
When I first trudge by, dragging two kids and sleds,
He’s purely a snowman
Three innocuous balls of snow
Later, my husband calls through the driving wind:
“Did you see this snowman?” he laughs,
Like he does when something’s funny-weird,
Like we’re all going to have a lot of questions.
It’s hard to tell in the gray-white blur, but
As I approach, I see that the snowman has a face.
Not a snowman face,
A human face,
With thoughtfully shaped human-like nostrils,
Lined, plump lips,
A furrowed brow with inscrutable eyes
Not enough detail to notice from afar. Just enough to make you wonder
How you didn’t see it from the start,
All on the top-most of
balls of snow.
For days, we laugh and trade jokes about the cursed snowman, how:
He haunts the neighborhood children (maybe just the bad ones).
He is an ancient spirit, reincarnated near a municipal parking lot in Upstate New York.
He is the foreboding marker of yet another stage of this unending pandemic.
He is the manifestation of decades of children’s playground arguments.
He is an alien being, waiting to hitch an extraterrestrial ride home
Frozen, he yearns for freedom.
A few days later, I bring my youngest daughter back,
Red-cheeked and open-eyed, she notices before I do:
“Where scary snowman go?
Someone put scary snowman away?”
And, she’s right. There is no trace.
Her voice pierces the cold, ripe with angst and her trademark insistence, lilting up at the
Ever-present question mark.
Staccato beats between each word,
Pausing to get each syllable just right:
“Someone. Put. Scary. Snowman. Uh-WAY?”
I will later share this with my husband.
He will quip, in the voice of the snowman:
“I have to go, my home planet needs me.”
And again, we will laugh.
But just then, as I push my daughter on the swing, staring at the empty spot,
I picture not a tractor beam, but a nearby shed
Or a cold basement
Or a restaurant kitchen
With reduced seating capacity but a
roomy walk-in freezer.
I picture him huddling, waiting,
Peering out from under thoughtful eyebrows,
Either someone put him away,
Showing a kindness,
Erecting a shield,
Against the cruelty of humans towards that which is different
Or else, he galumphed there himself in the dark of winter.
Perhaps he doesn’t want to just melt away,
Perhaps he hopes to last until the first hints of spring cross the ground.
Perhaps he hopes to slip back outside
Slide through the mud, briefly feel warmth,
To see, with his heavy-lidded eyes,
The colorful heads of crocuses
The green corkscrews of pea shoots
And if he’s lucky,
The sprigs of carrot greens
Pushing and unfurling into spring.
Samantha Ley is a graduate of Kenyon College and the University of Virginia. Her fiction has appeared in a number of online publications. She lives near Albany, NY, where she works as a freelance children’s writer and editor.