If I were free of gravity
by Betsy Mars

If I were a rich man, I’d play the fiddle on the roof
like a floating violinist in a painting by Chagall.
I’d elevate myself
above everybody else.
I’d tune out the world, ignoring change,
and live in my cocoon until ready to emerge,
weaving silk from my salivary glands.

Eating the finest mulberry leaves,
I’d live in a cloistered world,
important and cultivated —
white naked vulnerable, tiny horns on my back.

Flightless, I depend on humans for my brief survival.
Inside my cocoon, I thread my prism’s bars.
Mission accomplished,
I’ll be dipped in boiling water
to make my silken treasure easier to unravel.
The world outside revels in my sputum,
dyeing for its glorious sheen and strength.

Feeling the fire rising,
I break my bonds and escape
through a hole of my own making,
turn a new leaf and fly off gently
to the waking moon.
There, alight and in tune,
I’d land in lunar dust
with delicate feet and
plant my silken flag.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: This photo was taken from the roof of the garage in the backyard where I grew up near Inglewood, California. I was around 13, and I guess not quite as afraid of heights as I later became. This is as close to fiddling on a rooftop as I have ever come.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: At first, I had intended to follow through on the Fiddler on the Roof theme, and imagine what it would be like to be a wealthy man. Somehow, my wires got crossed and I started to fantasize about the life of a silkworm and how a little, lowly creature like that has played such an important economic role throughout history. In doing some research, I found to my dismay that the silkworms are killed after all their hard work in order to preserve the silk in one long, continuous thread. It seemed a bit ungrateful and cruel, so I created a better fate for it. Maybe I came to relate too much to the silkworm. Sometimes cocoons are not all they’re cracked up to be.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Betsy Mars is a writer, educator, mother, and animal lover  — including silkworms. She just discovered a name for her underlying philosophy: Ahimsa — the idea of doing no harm, and would like to achieve perfection in this in her daily living. She is currently between jobs and between trips, and is honored to have been published multiple times by Silver Birch Press, as well as in several anthologies.

AUTHOR PHOTO: The author the Levitated Mass at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)  while chaperoning a middle school tour group.