Grandfather as a Boy Beneath the Floor
Their footsteps were an alphabet I did not understand as I waited below where my father told me to stay when the Americans came, to be quiet or they will find me and fill my head with voices. Because I did not want to have conversations with myself, I waited for them to leave, they who my mother said have mouths full of serpents. What did I know about the language of a reptile? What words do they have for witch, orchid, lizard? I listened to how the mouth can be its own animal, expected snakes to fall from them and find me hiding in the dirt so they could strike my heel or thigh. I would have taught these snakes to catch rats instead, how to retrieve eggs without swallowing. The only snakes I knew lived in trees where these men must have fallen from. They must be the same tall men with red eyes I’ve caught looking into my room at night. I have heard them swallowing chickens before I sleep. When they came trying to convince my father I should follow them, the heads of roosters were still in their jaws. What is the sound of a boy in the dark? tik-tila-ok.