When we first moved out here, I thought the barn was like the only rotten tooth left in the mouth of a slack-jawed bumpkin.
But not long after I damn near died birthin’ her, it began to speak to me. The barn.
Today bein’ no different.
It wanted me to do things.
At first I tried to pay it no mind. I ignored the barn on the back of our property, but lately, in between soggy diapers, bleeding nipples, and crack of dawn feedings, I began to listen.
Last week, when she was down for a nap, I pulled on a pair of boots and sliced my way toward it, through the frigid cold, feeling like a metal pick plowing through the ice. The earth was soft inside the barn’s belly, even though everything else outside was frozen. It leaned and sagged and creaked, soothing me somehow. Past old tractor tires, forgotten skids and rotten bales of hay, back in the corner, I saw the tombstone propped up against the weathered siding.
Barn wood some city slicker would have paid high dollar for.
Folk art, they would say.
Pieces of a purpose, I would say.
It was crumbled, faded, crooked, a hunka pulp inside the wasted tooth. My breath colored the air like puffs of ash and I leaned in to read…
Elizabeth Sara Walker
Nothin’ but a baby, I thought.
When he got home from work, I told him about it.
“I’ll walk out, have a look see,” he says.
I stayed inside and fed her, always feeding her, tiny grip clenching at me, tiny mouth sucking the life out of me.
“We should call the historical society. They might pick it up,” he suggests.
Then he played with her, ate meatloaf, drank some beers and wanted to fuck. I let him, but I pretended I was in the solace of the barn, not underneath him. The gyno said it had been enough time since I gave birth to “resume sexual relations,” but I didn’t feel like it would ever be long enough. He fell asleep during Letterman; I stayed up. Night was day, and day was night in her world.
She’s nothin’ but a baby, I thought.
The detachment, the voices… the docs called it severe postpartum depression.
I called it enlightenment.
And after finding the tombstone, I called it a validation.
Scrubbing last night’s dishes, with yellow rubber gloves pulled up to my elbows, I could hear her crying in the crib.
Out the window above the sink, I looked at the barn.
I saw it as a masterpiece amongst the decay.
I cocked my ear toward its dark knowing and waited for the truth.
If it spoke to me again, I would act.
And it told, just as I knew it would.
’Cause that ole barn and me, we were connected.
But beautiful, somehow.
“Bring her.” Twice, I heard it. Like a whisper, with a throat fulla tumbled gravel.
Off rubber fingertips, the soapy water dripped and pooled across the kitchen floor and down the hallway as I walked toward her wail.
“Bring her to me; the grave awaits.”
Her room was dark, smelling of shit and baby powder, but I reached in toward the shrieks and found an arm and a leg.
I pulled her out.
It wouldn’t take long.
The dishwater would do.
It would be easy; she’s nothing but a baby.
And it was.
Rosy and alert from the cold… after I buried the new Elizabeth Sara Walker, I noticed that I had tracked the barn’s dirt floor through the house.
The earth was soft in there, remember.
When he got home, he would ask for her, and wonder where all the dirt had come from.
I wouldn’t tell.
The barn and I had secrets to share.
The barn’s long kept… Mine brand new, nothin’ but a baby.