A girl I knew in college shaved her pubis,
placed the clippings in a wooden cigar box,
and left them outside her ex-boyfriend’s
dormitory door. The cigar box had belonged
to the girl’s father, who had died from a fall
from a roof shortly after the Korean War,
where he had flown a B-29 on bombing raids.
The cigar box had been made in Costa Rica
and had Spanish words on it I couldn’t decipher.
I was in the girl’s room when I saw the cigar box,
not on the evening the shaving took place
but on an evening when four of us (the boyfriend included)
were studying together for a philosophy midterm.
We discussed radical doubt, the mind and body split,
and proofs of God’s existence. It was dusk and outside
the dormitory window the sky was bleeding
into the earth near the football field. The girl,
just nineteen, was sprawled on her bed
in a way that made me alternately exhilarated
and uneasy, and I recall that her boyfriend
saw the cigar box at one point and teased her
about smoking cigars. For a long while we debated
the difference between a priori and a posteriori,
and then the girl started crying just a little and told us
she was the one who had found her father dead
on the driveway. Later, when the ex-boyfriend
opened the cigar box to show me, he didn’t say
at first what was there inside, and for some reason
I thought of a bird’s nest, a small bird, maybe
a sparrow. It was an image I couldn’t seem to shake.
Every time I saw the girl after that my first thought
was of the tiny nest arranged as strange offering
in the Costa Rican cigar box of her dead father.
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