If John Waters Hung Out in Reston
He’d live in our townhouse, with the filthiest bathroom alive—
a rust hole in the sink so big it’ll leak
all over the floor if you fill it, and a
cardboard Elvis cutout who wears his golden
suit on our stairwell. He’ll scare the crap
out of you if you’re not warned. Instead of chickens
we have a family of finches nesting above
our deck. Their bird house has a Tennessee
license plate draped, bent over the top for
a roof. The daddy warbles from atop
a long dead gas grill. There’s a hole
in that too, right where we used to connect
the propane tank. Johnny would love that we
could burn the whole motherfucker down.
All these animals, chirping and screwing, making
animal babies to live in this nest. The daddy
finch has two calls—one a ventriloquist
act he does with dinner in his beak.
His other is a warning. “Get the fuck out,”
when we’re sitting out with morning coffee.
I can’t tell if he’s speaking to the babies
or to us. They start out shitty fliers,
dodging the owls and hawks, or the occasional
fat ass squirrel who hops from our moldy hammock
stealing food from their feeder. In
the end, their wings grow thicker like our skin.
They leave, maybe to return, maybe not.
No predictable plot. Johnny would like that too.
She lies on her back in the lake watching fireworks.
Everything about it’s illegal—the pyrotechnic
colors, the possibility of germs
In this mandredged pond. “Yeah, it was pretty sick,”
she texts me later. I can’t bring myself
to scold—to add my own judgment to
the current she swims against daily. Maybe
“sick” has multiple meanings—pink ribbons,
monster waves, turf burn busting open
in fall after fall, goal after goal. So,
floating on this night of freedom, makeshift
cannons shooting chemistry high above her,
smoking suburban air, maybe here
she’ll steal a moment of well.
Sally Toner is a High School English teacher who has lived in the Washington, D.C. area for over 20 years. Her poetry, fiction, and non-fiction have appeared in Gargoyle Magazine, The Delmarva Review, Watershed Review, and other publications. She lives in Reston, Virginia with her husband and two daughters, where the recent demise of the household’s fire bellied toad has officially raised her status to fourth funniest in the family.