The first bird I left was gold. The paper was waxy and had a sheen to it. That’s why I used it. The shiny paper was recycled; a wrap from the store when I purchased my newest stone, now jostled in my pocket as I roamed the neighborhood. The stone itself more of a red sparkle than gold but very Hollywood which is what attracted me. Set amongst the quartz and all black anything (obsidian, onyx, tibetan smoke quartz, they begin to blend like that) I was used to rubbing my fingers over, it called to me first.
“Goldstone,” I said out loud.
I have seen you before. Give me reciprocity: some shiny, shiny thing. I didn’t need the woman to wrap it but she offered thinking it a gift for someone else. I felt no remorse pocketing the tourmaline as I plucked the roundest one from the barrel for purchase. My bird looked slick sitting, almost perched for flight, on the longest branch of the potted wicker succulent. Color on a chilly, gray day. Not brutal but I needed to wear a scarf which always told me how cold it really was. I always wore a hat, even today, even though I had a wig as extra protection. I was also wearing sunglasses even though it was overcast; overcast and drizzling. I spent $5.13 on Earl Gray tea and a vegan lavender cookie. I got a free cup of water. I sat in the back with my air buds on and turned up. This one didn’t say anything; I just drew the triangle with my fingers over the gold paper, stuck it atop the center of the branches, where they all converged like a waiting basket, and walked away leaving my half drank tea on the table. My mouth was dry. I bit my tongue with my teeth to stop my jaw from baring down on itself and began to count: five stones in my pocket, two pennies, eight straws, my keys, and seven more pieces of paper. Plus a receipt.
The second one I left was a purple frog in a pot outdoors and inside it said, Leap before you look. That was the very first one I made but the second one to go.
When I began to plant the nightshade, I began to leave the origami animals with it so you would notice it. Touch it. Pluck it from its hiding spot and pick the deadly rose. This started days ago: first the plastic butterfly, then the felt spider, then the paper crane, the paper bat, the brown dog. When I saw where she lived, I planted the queen anne’s lace along the way. I planted them both at the same time. I planted the evenly cut red Valentine heart and I knew that you would pick them for her, pick the animals from her without revealing the secret.
The heart read The theme this year is homemade and hidden.
When you arrive to her apartment door, you see the second heart,
My love please enjoy.
A basket full of muffins covered with a red checkered cloth.
I knew you would bring them inside. I knew you would try one first. I knew you would fall to the floor in little pieces. I like to think you thought of me sometimes and the way I used to wear my smirk. I like to think you tasted the muffin before you drank the wine, impressed. Such a stern rule follower you had found even grinding those cherry seeds with her mortar and pestle. A rhythm in her arthritic temper. Knuckles sore, knees sore, teeth clenched. I like to think of you there with your hand clutched to your throat, remembering the way I wore my innocence so hooked like a line. Such a tumult inside. I’ll remember you, even if I’m a little unsure of the final faint, always tasting the thumbtacks first. Then the juicy black berries of your noxious bouquet. Then the inexplicable seeds ground to a fine wine; thirty apple cores, plus the five ground cherry pits plus the dash of rose for the smell. You’ve always called me flagrant. I would say I’m a perfectionist, being sure I’m never sure. Sometimes you have to make sure. Cutely, you said, damn sure.
Deftly, I sit so in my mind I may maunder.
I like to think you picked the white swan off the open cork, the red wine in an open canister to aerate before you put anything in your mouth. Smelled like rose. I like to think you smelled it and said, must be rose, my favorite. You always said that. The oleander somewhere in the distance on a kitchen window. Maybe you gripped the swan on the way down like hope. I would have named each animal but thought that’d be too revealing. The theme this year is handmade and hidden but the swan says,
Better safe than sorry. Drink up.
Even though I barbed the whole place, even filled the cake with stones; I like to think you tasted the thumbtacks first before you even could open the oven door.
“Valentine’s Day (redone)”