Tony Tost

from Invisible Bride

For years, irate mothers’ groups have demanded playground reform as child-guidance experts, educators, architects and artists formulated the exact number of dangerous illusions in the world. For openers, the lakes appear to be sheathed in glass while it is in fact the dreary expanses of asphalt that are stuffed with it.

Two swing-sets are nearly touching.

A playground lets our children dash about?willing, laughing, suspending, breaking each other’s bones?as the thinkers make fools of us. The playground spins our thoughts around and extends a hospitable welcome to those who want to avail themselves of a chance to walk in the shade of some excellent exterior landscaping. This month, I will explore playground reform as an intuitive response aiming to produce and promote ideal gender identities in children.

A child’s body itself is a playground in which gender identities can be monitored and produced, compelling reformers to locate them in public, visible settings. Like a cloud, I am meant to serve a large population. A playground should be a sort of truce between the tunnels and twilights of childhood. A playground should be rippling at its outermost branches. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, about 120,000 playground injuries are treated in U.S. hospitals each year.

A playground should remain in a child’s heart, even as that child, years later, awakes, in his or her own clothes, on a beach, bruised (in a “pool of bruises” in fact), blue-veined and delivered from his or her indolence into an outdoor, multi-use play area of a completely different sort, one that acknowledges a community’s commitment to its children and the future they will inherit.

A playground, above all else, should be the first blossom and wintry ground, the fuzzy, distant shore and the whale’s belly, the physical soup and the philosophical skin that agrees to mouth adult expectations concerning aesthetics and safety, even as it swallows them.


The man who went into a coma after the flood is still out of it. We have similar needs. He moves through songs of sorrow and death ropes with a halo best described as ‘oceanic.’ This entire experience has been like watching the union of two virgins: him and the world (virgins are made for lying down together).

I count at least forty methods of devouring.

Since he dozed off, I have hoped to impress his mind that reality is a balanced bird with many equally important sections; that we should recognize and search for desirable traits and not be overly concerned with minor faults; that in the evaluation of the bird, a judge cannot help but feel dizzy.

I have used his senses as my weapon. I made a mix-tape of disparate bird calls and have allowed pigeons to nest in his bed.

For five weeks I have been teaching him to draw birds by taking his (cold, unresponsive) hand and executing some modest, semi-realistic sketches (each bird’s neck tilted slightly back with no trace of neck-shaking or over-styling, all colored birds evenly-colored throughout) of birds in their natural habitats.

I am very eager to judge his drawings when he finally awakes.

Points will be taken off for: a bird leaning too far forward or backward; head not held high; neck drawn too far back; dull or faded color, color lacking sheen; colors blending together to produce impure or smutty effect; bronze cast on body, neck or head; coarse, prominent, or contrasting ceres (except in white shietti, where a red cere is desired); pale or lusterless eye color; pinched in face; beetle brows; drooped eye lids; head too small for balance; scissored wings; loose feathers or long feathers; any tail or wing missing; excessive color; soft feathers; stained or soiled feathers; awry tail; tail too long; body too shallow, lacking depth; crooked keel; keel too long and not curved; body too small, lacking in substance; body too square or angular lacking overall roundness; broken bill or unmatched eyes; split keel; completely white primary or secondary wing feathers; completely white tail feathers.