[creative non-fiction]

There is a pandemic, which means I am playing Wordscapes, linking letters together out of a circle of six to create words: sledge, ledge, edge. I am playing Wordscapes; I am watching words shrink & slot into place. Yes, the virus is making us mold on its musty cape. 

There is no rest in citron fruit yellowing in the backyard, the purple sun & its last flirtation across the solid Louisiana sky, the elm standing straight again after being chewed up like a neem branch in a cheek pocket. There is only Wordscapes & every night, the bright flash of Spectacular! Great! like a small miracle. The reconstruction of a fence: slowly, slat by slat. Slat is a common word on Wordscapes. So is elm. Phlegm, peg, helm. 

We chopped down a tree limb that broke through a roof. Not our roof; not an elm tree; probably oak. From an aerial shot, once the cable returned, we could see the house & the furniture inside, as if Alice had grown & grown & become a giant again. Or as if a doll had heard the hurricane coming, retracted the roof of her convertible home, left in her fast red chopper & forgotten to close the roof behind her. Oak is not a common word in Wordscapes, only oar. This is because Wordscapes allows you to make even thunder into a paddle. 

There were no floods. At least, the bayou was still hungry after, three kids wrestling in the back of a pickup sitting in a line wrapped around the block. Gas station ice in our hands, melting between our fingers like rare molasses. Yes, we only got three inches of rain. Yes, we sank into the sucking ground. There’s a left turn out of McDonald’s where the generator whining was the only sound after nights of howling, as if there was once a baby & then only a lack of one. There, my aunt says a sinkhole will form. 

The washer broke with all my soapy clothes in it, & that felt like a sinkhole too. Sink, hole, kin, kohl. This is a bad example of a Wordscapes game because there are eight letters in sinkhole, which is two extra than I am given at a time. Wordscapes never lets me have more than I can handle, unlike God. Yes, I believe in a God who tallies how many suns I can admire before they’re stained on my eyelids forever. How many pieces of broken things a bayou can hold before it sets out to consume something whole. 

I believe in a God who says everyone deserves a good meal. 

The winds deposit billboards, roofing, and pecan trees into the bayou’s open mouth. The bayou picks shells from its teeth & we are stopping grocery store clerks with carts full of soggy unfrozen boxes to see if we can unwarp the cardboard before they’re taken to the giant dumpster left untouched during the storm. The winds felt they deserved a meal hot, or at least hoarded tightly.

Somewhere else, a baby not yet born, or rather a mom in a pink dress setting her hair & a dad smoking a cigarette drifting blue smoke, cause a wildfire that makes our sky into a portal. Yes, after. The sky feeds us beauty like an apologetic mother & the beauty was feeding too, on redwoods & other giant trees.

 In Wordscapes, you cannot pull a jagged tooth from a lovely mouth. Pretty makes try makes yet. Beautiful makes flit makes fate. Wordscapes has never asked me to spell death, which makes heat makes date makes tea. 

Without power, heat is unbearable. 

(Dear Teacher, I am using the present simple here because though I felt the unbearable heat during a temporary time in the past, it is an always truth. Without power, heat is unbearable.) 

There was no way to mark my granduncle’s eighty-seventh birthday besides the date circled neatly on the calendar tacked on a dripping fringe. 

& yet tea, made on a gas stove on the back porch with the birds still silent & the wide pot blackening, was the solid rhythm of level complete, collect twenty-five coins, the bright confetti of Your Daily Gift!

Yes, the green & gold present unwrapped to reveal a free bullseye, to track down any stray letter that may have floated or drifted or been snatched away.

Rukmini Kalamangalam is a first-gen page and performance poet from Houston, TX. She is a current junior at Emory University. In 2018, she was named Youth Poet Laureate of the Southwest as well as Houston Youth Poet Laureate. Her poem, “After Harvey,” was set to music by the Houston Grand Opera. She has been published by Jet Fuel Review, SAND Literary Journal, Da Camera Museum, GASHER, and Tilde, among others.