The Society

Sister Lucia was on duty today

which meant we could only play

after we took care
of the important affairs
(worksheets, times tables, cursive tracing).

So the affairs were put in order and fast.
Answers were passed around like RSVPs.

We only cared
about our villages
of pine needles. 

The Society spanned grades.
Its census fluctuated.

Each of us began with heaps of needles for building.
Each floorplan designed in a signature style.

Joey had a penchant for bartering
so we shared a wall.

Marie wanted nothing of cooperation
so spent her time scavenging

for leaves and acorns
to expand the one room
in her one-room home larger.

Maple leaves were fifties. Oak leaves were hundreds.
Acorns were pocket change. Their value, of course, depended on size.

We learned creditor.
We learned debtor.

We learned each’s hunger.

Ian built his home last, roaming campus
to the one magnolia tree to collect its leaves.

Those leaves were blank checks.
His underwear stuffed with them.

In an effort to stop him,

we ruled that checks could only be penned in blood.
Pens had not been invented at the time of The Society.

Our ruling ushered in
the Red-Tipped Pine Needle Age.

Borne of spite or greed.
Boredom or lust for the sight
of blood. The pleasure
congealed in bulbs on our fingertips.

The blood did not always come easily.
Our skin became calloused.

When checks were penned, we held
payments up to the light. We all looked
up at them (me, Marie, Joey, Ian,
even Sister Lucia) keeping to ourselves
our decisions of who or what should be trusted. 

Each of us held, in our heads, our own rough rubrics of justice.

More from Nicholas Molbert