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  • Yard Show
  • Beth Gilstrap (bio)

It ain’t garbage if you turn it into something. Something slow dipped and pulled apart. Put back together again upside down. Round side out. Glib. Free. A vulture made of wire hangers. Fabric ripped, draped, coated in Splash Zone compound. Shingle seals barking up at spraying feathers.

I got a scrap heap under a tarp up in the backyard. Sunday, that’s my girl’s name, says it’s all junk. I need to get shit of it if I want her to move in with me. I can’t picture her up in here, though. She’s too pretty. Got long nails and a sweep of collarbone that gets me off task. I’m just fine with her uptown at her tidy little woman’s place with fresh sheets and curtains and all.

My house is about as bad as my yard. I keep buckets of empty spray paint cans in the kitchen. Paint done gone to its place in the spotlight on other yard shows. One bucket colored a great big rooster up on Dunlop Street. That one was commissioned. Not really yard show if it’s city funded, I guess. Still, my big cock gonna last a long time, I like to say. I plan on taking a mallet to those cans, smashing them to planets. I got paper bags of old beer cans. They make my house smell sour, but one day they’ll be tall black-eyed Susans jutting out from an old tire swing. I’ll run the chains bolted to the tire with ribbon, maybe nylons. Colored L’egg nylons—that kind that comes in a plastic egg at the drugstore for fifty cents.

I got an old carpet remnant rolled up in the corner. It could have some cat pee on it, but I say that just adds to it. Going to be a piece for all the senses, and Lord knows a sense of smell is a right powerful thing. An eagle will hang from barbed wire. Maybe some old bamboo fishing poles, tie some ripped scarves to the top, so they can catch the wind and decorate my yard with whipping fabric, wind-dancing blues and muddy purples. They can hang limp during rain showers, dry hard in the sun. Grow green spots of mold. Start to disintegrate.

Those high-art folk like to talk about decay these days. Painting in blood. Horseshit, I say. We been doing this down South ages. Yard show part land, part weather, part human, part not. It jump together up in you and you can’t shake it. There’s codes in things, maybe you don’t know. That sofa on the side of the road got a story, too. [End Page 27]

My show out front of my own place got a robot made of scrap metal and tools my granddaddy give me before he died. I put his hammer where a heart should be. I like the way the blue paint’s worn almost completely away and it’s slick down in the spots where he held it. He’s been gone near to thirty years, but I got an object his hand wore down to smooth.

I’m carrying buckets of paint cans to the back when Sunday yells from the other side of the fence. “All this stuff. How can you stand it? You’re gonna get rats.”

She puts one arm on top of the other, covering the lion at the top of the gate. In her red shorts, Sunday’s skin presses through the chain-link. All that flesh and metal make me think of meat grinders. And there it is, that slope from neck to shoulder. I want my mouth on it when I die. If there’s a God, an honest to true higher power looking out for me, he’ll make that happen.

“I ain’t seen a durn rat yet. If I do, I’ll just trap it, skin it, dry its bones, and use them in a piece.”

“That’s disgusting,” she says, opening the squeaky gate. She puts her hands in her back pockets, walks right...


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pp. 27-28
Launched on MUSE
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