The Wise Old Owl counts the leaves falling off her catalpa tree with the snow. She counts up to 56, the same number as children who have been abused by caregivers in Minnesota since 2005. Not many two-leggeds care to count catalpa leaves falling. Not many have cared to climb the tree of these children’s lives to help them hold onto their leaves, keep those young chests and limbs from snapping off, breaking open.
It makes the Wise Old very sad. “Bare ruined choirs” calls to her the soaring cathedral of nature–quite a religious experience, she’ll tell you. Choirs where children might sing, might have been kept safe, beloved and gently held, not with palms burned down to the bone, not with hearts beating inside broken ribs, not with cracked-open skulls.
Is this the poor house of Charles Dickens’ time? Lots of very young children died then from malnutrition and exposure to cold and wet. No, the state of Minnesota does not condone poor houses or orphanages. Maybe she’s mistaken, maybe the homes where these children died are the poor house of today. Not enough decent food, not any protection from rats and garbage, or the rampage of caregivers.
She wonders if maybe these poor houses are the killing fields of a kind of war? She’s heard of concentration camps across the oceans where whole flocks were burned to death, stuffed into ovens. “Sing a song of blackbirds,” blacked bones baked in a pyre of hatred. But not here, surely. Not in the sane security of the U.S. of A.
In her travels she’s noted differences, however. Homes huge as pumpkins on steroids with four or five of those racing roaches that humans like to crowd onto highways. Homes that are mere piles of sticks with cold zinging through them. Poor versions of the poet’s “bare ruined choirs.” Noting as she does how pumpkins patches crowd together, whereas the piles of sticks are often off by themselves, at least here in the heartland. Or if crowded together, they house only the poor.
She suspects the caregivers who neglected or abused these 56 fallen leaves lived in the seclusion of Minnesota’s heartland. It’s not such a jolly place, this heartland. She’s noticed that. Little towns become quite bare themselves. Empty. Ruined choirs. Why? She’s watched slowly one jolly giant gathers all the acres into one enormous parcel. Takes several big machines and a few two-leggeds, leaving the town flock with very poor pickings. She can attest to that.
Knowing what’s good for her, she’s lately moved her home to a park land in a city. By the big river. One of her favorite places, that river. Don’t find too many mangled, burned, picked over skeletons in places like this. They hum with prosperity. If they can’t keep the leaves on their trees–nature being what it is–they buy fake. Take a gander, she suggests, liking the notion of a goose walking around with the two-leggeds. Don’t find many bare ruined children in places like these.