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        Daughters of the Dirt / Sarah Higdon

The Condom Tree
by Diane Fleming

My son, 14 and curious—14 and furious—finds condoms in my nightstand. 
Disgusted, he plants them in the backyard. 
I watch him: 
An adolescent shaken by his mother’s—my—sexuality; 
shook up by his own sexuality; he plants condoms.

I think about what he imagines will grow from rubbery tubes slapped in plastic wrappers. 
The ribbed ones will sprout celery. 
The extra sensitive ones will sprout tender lettuce leaves—baby lettuce. 
The bright-colored ones will grow tomatoes—plump. 
The black ones will grow deep purple eggplants—black-bruised in evening light.

But he doesn’t want growth. 
He wants to bury this fire. 
He pounds dirt on fire, hoping to put himself out.

I am the fat lady, the lady afraid of taking up too much space in this world. 
I’m the elevator lady, wearing white gloves, looking pristine, 
opening a squeaking elevator door, ushering people into the box, 
lifting them up or down: 
Up to the future; down to the past.

But my son gets in the elevator and thinks my white gloves are no disguise. 
I’m a bloody bleeder. 
I’m electricity.
I’m a wire cut apart and sparking. 
I burn.

He runs from the elevator into the store, into the road, 
into the world where signs are everywhere—signs that show how women are supposed to look; 
signs that show sex as a packaged good, an item on a shelf, half-priced on Tuesdays.

Then, he sees real women—soft-bellied, sharp-faced, 
bloody, destitute, and pungent. 
He needs the packaged women on signs; he needs the penniless women on the street. 
He needs the yeasty-warm-bread women in the kitchen.

Once need hits his gut, he shakes like a fossil on a fault line in an earthquake. 
He is loosened and he falls. 
To stop his free fall, he grabs roots of condom trees that grow in yards of suburban homes. 
He pulls himself up and climbs into the garden behind the house.

He plants dead babies and he plants dead hopes. 
He plants pictures of fathers, long disappeared.

He plants his own hands in the dirt to make sure he never sins. 
Burying himself alive is the only guarantee. 
Because—
look what happened to Adam, 
look what happened to Bill, 
look what happened to his mother: 
Look what’s happening here.
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Diane Fleming is an award-winning Austin writer and AustinMama.com favorite.

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