Rototilling the field beside the house for corn stalks, my dad turned up a rusty coffee can packed to the brim with marbles, some chipped, the old milky ones, not clear with squiggly designs, tiny bubbles trapped inside. My sister Kathy didn’t care, so I got them, boulders, peeries, all.
The avid player carried marbles in a milk carton for recess competition. I got good, real good. We’d line them up or circle them round, each player giving up five. Shooting spot drawn in the dirt, we’d try our luck. Got to keep what you shot. Steady as a bird on a wire, I took aim, squeezed to secure the hit. The boys, on the other hand, showed off brute force, knuckles spent like their reputation depended on it. They often missed, or overshot, rubbed and kissed shooters leaping in the air right over the target. Playing me was a test of valor, if not wits. Once in a while they’d net three or four in a blast, but that didn’t make up for constancy, those cherished marbles picked off one by one.
Carol Barrett holds doctorates in both clinical psychology and creative writing. She coordinates the Creative Writing Certificate Program at Union Institute & University. Her books include Calling in the Bones, which won the Snyder Prize from Ashland Poetry Press, Drawing Lessons (Finishing Line Press) and Pansies, a work of narrative nonfiction, forthcoming from Sonder Press. Her poems have appeared in JAMA, Poetry International, Poetry Northwest, and The Women’s Review of Books. A former NEA Fellow in Poetry, she lives in Bend, OR.