Runner Up: This Little Girl Goes to Burning Man

by Ellie Sawatzky

Ellie Sawatzky is a poet and writer from Northwestern Ontario, currently based in Vancouver. Her work has appeared in The Puritan, Prairie Fire, Arc, EVENT, FreeFall, 30 Under 30 (In/Words Press), and elsewhere. She was recently awarded 2nd place in Room’s poetry contest for her poem “Hippocrene.” She is the curator of IMPROMPTU, a daily blog of writing prompts, and her first chapbook is forthcoming with Frog Hollow Press in spring 2018.

All our best-loved childhood songs have hearts of darkness. From plagues to beheadings to feudal systems of taxation, the mortal peril at the core of the songs we sing to children is belied—to enchanting effect—by their sing-song insouciance. In this poem, a post-post-modern nursery rhyme about a lost girl in the desert, we are suspended in lyric time for one black, ecstatic night in the dreadful limbo between innocence and experience. Girlhood, with all its glowsticks and glitter, its beaded boots and faux-fur bikinis, as this cautionary verse so disarmingly alerts us, leaves a toxic trace.
Suzanne Buffam, Thomas Morton Memorial Prize Judge, 2017

A Leave No Trace Ethic is very simple: leave the place you visit
the same as or better than you found it.
Burning Man Guide
This little girl is one-two-three. We count mountain goats from the RV
window, the spread-open wings of dragon trees,
and brittle blue shrubs
as they dwindle

to one over there and then none. Under paper-white sky, it’s Tutu Tuesday,
it’s a Day-Glo desert playground, she’s
a dust-fairy in pink
half-blinking,

never sits. Me, her nanny, mistaken for her mother. She’s had less time
than some to learn the horse-like unpredictability
of love. Her mother
runs free

in beaded boots, a faux-fur bikini. Repeating love, her mantra, the word
sounding in the black mountain valley,
or swallowed whole, a bell
in a mossy

hollow. This mother was three, then forty-three in a flare of wildfire. She
was a little girl wanting love. Her own mother
loved the dog, and a man
who ran

marathons. This little girl wants to see the man burn. Long into the black,
ecstatic night, she’s lighting matches, while I
lie awake in limbo. Listening
to little huffs

of breath, the threat of hooves outside, stirring up dust storms, the sound
nearly drowned by drumfunk, thumping
bass. This little girl’s out dancing,
this little girl’s

asleep. This little girl, with turning uncertainty, loves another little girl,
and the love leaves its trace,
lit up like a glowstick,
then slowly

leaking esters into sand.

 


Ellie Sawatzky is a poet and writer from Northwestern Ontario, currently based in Vancouver. Her work has appeared in The Puritan, Prairie Fire, Arc, EVENT, FreeFall, 30 Under 30 (In/Words Press), and elsewhere. She was recently awarded 2nd place in Room’s poetry contest for her poem “Hippocrene.” She is the curator of IMPROMPTU, a daily blog of writing prompts, and her first chapbook is forthcoming with Frog Hollow Press in spring 2018.

☝ BACK TO TOP