Excerpt from Exotropia by Goldberry Long


The following essay appears in our January 2015 digital issue. The entire issue is available for download.

You stand there wobbling on your big small feet, and though you have been walking two months already, since you were nine months old, you totter like these are your first steps, with your wandering eye and your infected inner ear, the water behind it confusing your sense of up and down and sideway. You spot the birds at the feeder just outside the window, and you point to them and “Oh! Oh!” Oh, your word for the world, for wonder and surprise, astonishment, for warning and accomplishment – earlier, diaperless, you called from the other room – “Oh! Oh!” and came to get me, “Oh,” and took me there, “Oh,” and pointed to the puddle you had made with your own body “Oh!” All at once it says, Look, and See, and Did you see too? As if the world could be contained in one gasp, one small snatch of sound that is, maybe, not a word at all. Wobbling in your moccasins with the train pictured on them, one foot the engine, one the caboose, your knees bowed, as if your legs cannot support the weight of your astonishment. “Oh,” you say, your finger to the bird feeder where the sparrows devour sunflower seeds.

And earlier, you stood outside and peered at me through the window. “Oh,” you called, which meant, I am doing something naughty.

I asked what you had in your mouth, and laughing, you showed me the seed clamped between your front teeth, small chips of white, two up, two down, clamped. Your word was laughing: “Oh,” a word pronounceable even while chuckling, while holding a seed between the teeth.

Goldberry LongGOLDBERRY LONG is the author of the novel Juniper Tree Burning. Her work has appeared in Colorado Review, New Orleans Review, Bayou Magazine, and Poetry International. She lives in California with her family, where she teaches fiction writing at the University of California, Riverside.

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