By ice rivers
When I was a pre-school child I played with miniature plastic cowboys and Indians. My parents referred to them as “characters”.
I liked ‘em all, the cowboys and the Indians. Sometimes they got along, sometimes they fought. They always had personality, thus individuality.
They were part of an ongoing story that I was continuously creating.
When they fought, someone would get wounded usually in the shoulder.
At some point, I became aware of the concept of death.
And the concept of loss and burial.
One day there was a big war in the story and four characters died.
Two of my favorites died in that war, an Indian swinging a tomahawk and a yellow, plastic cowboy who was charging forward with a rifle.
For some reason I called the yellow soldier Daddio and the Indian with the tomahawk was Tommy. Tommy was made out of some kind of weird rubber.
After the war, I couldn’t just bring them back…they were dead.
They needed to be buried.
I buried them one day.
Literally. I dug four little holes. Four shallow graves.
I put rocks/sticks over the spots where they were buried; two in the front yard and two in the back. The back yard had a cherry tree; a hill, a garage and barbed wire keeping our yard separate from the yard next door. It was big enough that later we would learn to play baseball back there.
Daddio was in the front yard. Tommy was in the back. Another character was buried near each of them
I didn’t want to lose them forever. I just needed them to be dead for awhile…a week or two.
I was interested to see what the other characters would do when Tommy and Daddio were gone.
I wondered if the survivors had learned any lessons about love and war and death and loss while I was learning about their learning.
The surviving characters were alarmed when they heard about the four burials. They indicated that the loss of life was not as frightening as the undertaking.
I learned that they realized that they were not actually alive so the loss of life was no deterrent to their belligerence. Burial was a different story as they were afraid that I would not be able to locate the burial sites and therefore Daddio and Tommy et al would be lost.
As I learned then and we all know now, toys fear being lost.
They immediately went back to war and said they would continue the carnage until I buried them all or I brought Tommy and Daddio back to the surface.
Furthermore, they wanted me to start using red nail polish to indicate their war wounds.
I thought that was a good idea so I did.
A couple of weeks passed
After a lot of bloodshed, I decided enough was enough so I went out to retrieve the buried leaders to stop all the suffering.
I found Tommy and his companion in the front yard. No problem.
I found Daddio’s companion in the backyard but I couldn’t find Daddio.
I must have forgotten to put a marker over his location.
Daddio was gone. I dug a dozen holes and I got the kid from across the street to dig a few holes with me.
Suddenly the backyard was a real big place.
My parents were getting worried.
We never found Daddio.
I returned Tommy and his companions to the wounded.
The polished characters decided they didn’t want to play anymore and neither did I.
Lost and loss and learning.
That same week, I saw my first baseball card.
I’ve just seen a face. I remember the time and place.
The face that I’ve just seen is the face of Roy Face. What a face on Roy Face.
He looks like a juvenile delinquent skeleton skull with a Pittsburgh Pirate lid on its dome and a forkball on its mind.
I see him in my memory as I remember the buried Daddio.
Roy Face’s face was on the first baseball card I remember which was the moment I stepped away from wounded plastic characters.
I haven’t thought of Roy Face’s face nor of Daddio for a long time.
The last time I thought of Daddio before yesterday was when I remembered a poem that I had written 40 years ago called One of My Childhood Burials.
That poem disappeared as well.
I gave it to a fake Elton John who was going to use it as the lyrics to a song he was supposedly writing. According to his plan, I was gonna be the fake Bernie Taupin within that collaboration and we were gonna get rich.
Right around that time another person wanted to collaborate with me on writing porno.
She was the wife of the man who once was the kid across the street who helped me dig some holes when we were looking for Daddio. Her name was Christine Sullivan but she called herself Michelle Le Carte.
This was Michelle’s proposal to me: “I’ve got a filthy mind and you know how to spell.”
She disappeared almost immediately as did the poem, the fake Elton John, the imaginary song and the anticipated riches of each goofy dream.
The Roy Face card had disappeared long before that, 3 or 4 years after the burial of Daddio.
But here’s the kicker. Here’s what I know now that I didn’t know then.
Nothing ever disappears.
Things get buried.
Things get lost.
Matter is indestructible.
If I went back to my old backyard and dug it up,
I would find Daddio.
Daddio is plastic so Daddio didn’t decompose.
He’s still in that backyard,
two miracles and a life short of sainthood.
The backyard is more real than real estate
The backyard is also the subconscious.
Everyone has a backyard.
Daddio is one of millions
that lurk in my backyard.
Everyone, everything and every thought
ever is in all backyards.
Daddio is everywhere.
In the backyard of everyone
reading these words.
Always been there
Everything in the backyard is trying to come to the surface,
to get back into memory,
to be unearthed,
turned into an idea
Fake Elton John
One of My Childhood Burials
They all made it to the surface yesterday
because Daddio came to the surface and elevated them with him.
Happens everyday to all of us all the time.
Occasionally we write it down
or play it on a trombone
or dance in the moonlight all alone