“Is he dead? Did he die?” they ask about each artist introduced by the guide.
Perhaps on the verge of realizing their own mortality or suspecting
a tradition of reverence for the long dead, or more likely, they are only morbidly curious.
When the guide asks about landscapes and portraits, my daughter doesn’t offer the words,
though we’ve read about these. She wipes her nose with her palm
and fiddles with her plastic bracelet of stars.
I barely contain a stage prompt, offering a tissue instead.
One boy notices all of the birds flying in the same direction.
Another notes the contrast of clouds on the horizon.
I can’t help wishing that my daughter would sit up straight,
and talk about the contours of clouds or the pattern of the birds’ migration.
But she seems distracted by the angles of the mobile and the way the light
plays on the surface of the reservoir where I see my reflection
when we pass, the rigid puppeteer, wanting her to dance
before the crowd. And then, as if on cue, there stands Pinnochio,
a wooden sculpture, looming larger than life in the museum’s breezeway.
I think about Gepetto, who went through hell with his son,
but loosed the strings from the start. I smile and grasp the hand of the real girl.
Bethany Fitzpatrick has a M.A. in English from the University of Arkansas. She’s a full-time mom, and a part-time teacher and writer, who loves reading, dancing, singing off key, and perusing endless shelves of books. She has published poetry in Babblefruit and the Apeiron Review, as well as personal essays online with Mothers Always Write, Sammiches and Psych Meds, and Mamalode. She has also self-published Becoming: A Journey to Motherhood, a chapbook of poems through Lulu press.