Harvest Moon

autumnstockphoto

Come and lay with me, here in the amber leaves.

Don’t tell me anything. No whispers; no promises you want to keep and won’t. Do not dare to name the names my dreams are longing to hear – and whatever you do, don’t say any one of the single things my breath is holding itself for.

In this silence, the crows will come and feast on the breathless corpse of everything I wish to leave behind. 

Don’t say anything.

There is a piece of me that I have decided to hold onto. For now, at least. And if you say a single word about it, I promise you, I will never listen to anything again, but the beat of those crows’ wings against the cold north winds as they clamor over the remains of those parts of me I will not name.

So be silent. I have a story for you. It is the story of an orchard over-filled with too-ripe apples, splitting their skins and sickly sweet. It is the story of worms wheedling their way inside them; a story of flies clustering in great black hordes around them.

Be silent. This is the story of the berried branches of my childhood, where the weight of the dark fruit brought whole hedgerows to ruin, collapsing them beneath the burden of their terrible, ponderous weight.

Do you understand? There is no preservation. If the Harvest does not come, there is still no salvation.

There is nothing but the putrid stench of rotting fields; of animal carcasses piled ten feet high, and burning. This too, I have seen.

Knowing this, understand what I am telling you when I say I have decided to hold onto it. I am dying – aren’t we all? It is better to let the crows pick my body clean by nightfall, than to ask me to lie in the October sun, slowly bleaching and fading away.

But this one thing, I have buried. Yes – you must bury that which you wish to keep. That is why people lay their bodies in the ground like seeds; like treasure. They worship death with trembling, admirable reverence.

Listen: one day you are washing your clothes in the river. The next day you are washing your hands. One day you will wash your parents’ corpses, and one day your body will be the corpse that is being washed. The river will live far longer than you, but it will not remember.

That is why you have to bury things. The ground remembers; twists itself and changes shape, in order to conform to the memory.

That is why I tell you to be silent. There is nothing “right” to say. Not to me. Once I am gone, I am gone. I will not remember what you said.

Here we lie, in breathless silence, waiting for the crows. All around us the stars are falling, like the veil of night itself.

Perhaps I was wrong, and it is not the crows that are coming after all. Perhaps it is just the stars, here to dance with us on the pyre of the dying year. Perhaps I was even lying, to see if you would lay with me, knowing we were listening for our deaths. Perhaps there is no difference, and the stars and the crows are one and the same.

Everybody has a grave. That grave should not be inside of somebody else.

If you understand that too, I will tell you where I buried it.

Restless

moonlight stockphoto

The winds were wild today. They got inside me, whispering songs of darkness and undergrowth, thorny branches scraping starry skies.

Like a fool, I thought of you, and wondered if you remembered me too.

We were young together; wild within ourselves. We ran through the night like silent shadows and sought out the dark places where only the spirits lived. We ran to the tops of hills and sat on stony peaks and stared out at the city stretched out beneath us.

You always had something silly to say. Something about the trees, talking. I loved it when you were silly.

I don’t remember anymore what made you stop. If it was me; if it was the spirits; if something got into your body and scared you. But one day you sat down and you told me, “I’m too tired to run tonight.”

I said, “Okay,” and sat down with you. I thought, tiredness passes. And instead of running in the moonlight, we talked. You spoke a lot about your father. Your old boyfriend. Your current girlfriend. Our friendship, and our love. You told me your pain, and I told you mine, and above us the skies stretched from dusk into dawn, and back to dusk again. Something cold was coiling its way around my stomach; the groping fear that wild things feel when they sit in plain sight for too long.

“You should get up,” I said. Then: “Please. Get up.”

You didn’t move. “I’m tired,” you said, again.

I jumped up then. I did not like this creeping tiredness, that had made you more tired while you rested. “You have to get up,” I said, and started pacing in circles around you. I got angry. I got scared. The skies turned again. The dawn brought dew. You didn’t even move to shake it off.

I said, “We have to go,” and I bit you. Ah – that made you move! You hit me right back, and then you said, “If going is so important to you, you should go! But I am tired, and I am going to stay here.”

And I didn’t understand. But I still did not like this creeping tired. I did not want to stay close to it. So you curled up and went to sleep, and I walked through the undergrowth and mud, and found my way to the top of the hills and sat on the stony peaks and listened to the trees sing by myself.

They could not explain it either. So I still didn’t understand.

Someone found you; I suppose that was for the best. They put you in a box, next to all the vampire bats and crocodiles, and made you warm and dry. That is what you looked like when I found you. Warm, and dry, and safe. Of the two of us I thought I’d look the worst for wear, with all my scars and my new limp; but I was wrong. Your hair was too short; your claws were gone. And even though your eyes were open, on the inside, they looked fast asleep.

I took a seat while the vampire bats were snoring, and I told you what the moon had been doing, and where the seasons were. It seemed like it was hard to know, from inside your box. And then I said, “I’m sorry I bit you. I knew they would find you, though. If you lay down long enough. I was scared for you.”

And you said to me, “We’re just different, you and me. My pain was too heavy. I needed their help to carry it.”

I was hurt at first. Was that not what I had been doing, all those years ago? But I remembered what you looked like in the grass, running fearless in the hillocks; and I knew then too that there was no way to make you remember that all things get lighter, with momentum. You didn’t even remember what momentum felt like.

“I’ll come back another night,” I said. “I’ll tell you again what the moon is doing, and where the seasons are, and what the winds are whispering.”

I thought I saw your body shiver, as though it wanted to move again and come with me. But then there was only silence and stillness, so I left.

The wind is stirring, and like a fool, I think of you, but not enough to keep my promise. Not yet, not now, maybe never. I don’t think you notice the time that passes. It’s not as though you can see the sky change, from inside your box; but I always have a sunrise to chase, and long nights to run through.

Please enjoy your box. Please be happy inside it. This is the best thing I know how to wish for you. And don’t worry about me – you don’t have to wish anything for me. Everything I wanted, I have: Thorn-scraped skies and stony peaks; running, tumbling, headlong through the mossy undergrowth, and all the dark places, where only the spirits go.

My Hands

stockphotohands

We never talked much towards the end. We never talked about the things that mattered, the things that hurt, or the things that were killing us, slowly. We especially didn’t talk about the thing we killed. We parted like leaves being drawn by separate winds, and I later learned you had no idea why; and it shook me violently to realize you had lived alongside my pain and never seen it. Then I remembered that you had lain alongside me in the nights when I  cried, and rather than reach out to comfort me, you had always turned away. It wasn’t that you had never seen me. You had outright chosen not to.

The death of “us;” the death of the life we had created; these things landed like tears in the cup full of sorrow I carried in my heart. The ripples from their fall reached out and connected with the memories of so many tears. I had always wanted to be a gentle person, but my hands had made decisions that gentle hands could not. These hands had signed papers and wielded knives and written a history of my life in ink and blood. These hands. The same hands that somehow knew to offer the backs of themselves first to small children and scared animals; because the backs of the hands can’t pull or poke, or snatch or grasp – and animals and small children, in their wisdom, know this too.

Once, I sat in the bathroom, cradling these hands. I traced their lines and saw their roughness. I remembered the night my mother coughed up blood in the bathroom. These hands, I used to clean it, so that my siblings would not see. I remembered the night that I sat in the bathroom, and clots of blood larger than my fist were falling out of me. These hands, wiping the red stains from my thighs. Bathrooms are the places where women go to bleed in private; their tears and hearts and bodies alike. They are the true temples of the home, where we clean our bodies, let go our minds, and even sing in the echoing tiled chambers that remind us, somehow, of when we lifted our voices in the stone temples of our ancestors. And in this moment, in this temple, I saw my hands were shaking, and I whispered to God, “Why?”

“Why? I know my hands are not gentle. But I would have been a good mother, Lord. I could have been a good mother.”

In the stillness that accompanies the deep acceptance of these darkest nights in our spirit, I heard with such perfect clarity, “Good mothers don’t have gentle hands. They have hands that lift and carry; hands that bear the burdens of those who rest within them. Strong hands, that know how to be gentle; this is what I have given you. For the world is full of My children, and all of them are hurting.”

In the Bible, after God speaks, the chapter always ends with something simple, such as: “And after that, she went on her way and did as she was told.” The truth is never quite as easy; at the same time, there is no better way to sum up this story. After I heard this, I went on my way, and did my best to follow the Word as it had been revealed. And there are stories there too that I am still living, filled with heartbreak and hope, and sadness and joy.