I’d lie on the grass for hours. I’d let the blades softly cross-hatch the underside of my thighs so that my skin resembled the forest floor. Look up at the sky the exact colour and weight of cinder blocks. Watch the winged creatures etched into that stone.
I had a shoe box under my bed where I collected anything that could once take a breath. The freckled skin of pōhutukawa leaves, clots of sap, cicada skeletons, a monarch wing. Every morning tea, my friends and I would gather in the trees behind the playground. Exchanges were made. A chrysalis, for the claw of a crab. A milk tooth, for the feather of a tūī. Everything passed between our opening and closing fists.
In the afternoons when the teacher was talking and all our spines bent forward drowsily. I could see each vertebra protruding outwards. The small nobs like the burls of trees that we used to stick our feet into — just so that we could climb higher.
When I fell out of a tree and landed on my arm I learned that living bones are pink. That bones can breathe. That the marrow is crawling with blood vessels. From then on I felt disappointed that the tyrannosaurus rex at the museum wasn’t the colour of peonies.
These days, I find myself wishing that fossils could be excavated in reverse. I wish to know what we will become. What are we? Proto Sapientissimus? The not yet wisest? Will the soft flares in our spine be gone? Like the little, rotund pebbles on the shore that have been punched by waves for generations, will we become smoother? Happier?
Will they find my arm in someone’s shoe box? Look at the bones that are the gentle brown of dried up petals. Will you hold my arm? Will you feel it in your fists, paws, feathers, flippers, or claws? Put it down again and then let the grass blades etch it, erase it? Let me be punched away into the earth.