Sunday, August 11, 2013

Beneath the Diamond Sky

"You know he's not going to get better."
"I know, Momma."
"He's getting down.  And hateful, I wish he wasn't getting so hateful."
"He's mad."
"You don't have to tell me that.  He jumps on me for every little thing.  Sometimes he does it and I swear I don't know what I've done.  Like this morning-"
"You didn't do anything."
"I didn't think I did.  I started through the kitchen while he was cooking.  That's it.  Can't walk around him.  He goes off for no reason.  I don't know if it's the drugs or what."
"It's spread.  It's in his bones, now.  He knows what that means."
"I know.  He never said one word.  From the doctor's in Tupelo and an hour down the Trace, not one word, you know how quiet a drive that was?"
"I can imagine."
"And the damned radio singing.  There isn't any kind of music for a drive like that."
"He knows.  He didn't have to ask."
The frogs were a chorus, steady and drowning out everything but the growl of the lonely cars down the roadway.  The yard dog walked over and sat between the two chairs.
"The stars don't seem to be that bright.  I thought you said there was a meteor shower."
"Not yet, Momma.  It'll be a couple of weeks."
"How are we suppose to see anything through the clouds?"
"They'll clear up as it cools.  Don't worry.  It won't be long."
Crossing his legs, he lit a cigarette.
"You're not smoking in the house, are you?"
"No, Momma."
"You better not."
The dog pushed its nose up and into his hand.  He rubbed its muzzle and ears.  Ice in her drink shifted as she lifted it to her mouth.
"Sixty-five years ago, can you believe it?"
"Sixty-five years.  Anyway, my Momma and Daddy were out with your uncle watching the stars right before I was born.  You believe that?"
"The shower comes about this time in August every year.  We're a little early, but there'll be some to shoot.  Some before and some after."
"It's still a little hazy."
"Yeah, might be a little too hazy to see them.  We'll see.  There's more clouds over there.  They're moving south."
She turned the glass in her hand up to her face.  The clouds to the south burst to light.
"Well, I'm out of tea."
The shades of the yard were sharpened with another strike of lightning.
"He's mad.  I can't say that I blame him."
She spun the ice in her glass.
"He's mad."
"Oh, mad ain't the word.  He's had a hard life.  It's getting harder and he can't get it out any other way."
"I'm not sure he means it."
"Not to us, no.  He means it.  He just can't figure who to mean it to."
"It gets worse every week.  You can see his bones through his shirt."
"Lord, don't I know.  He'll be lucky to last til Christmas.  If he lives to Christmas, we'll have the best one ever.  I'm telling you-"
"I'd settle for his birthday.  If I could ask for that, I think that'd be alright.  I worry that the boys haven't had enough time with him."
"He loves those boys, but he just can't handle them when he gets to hurting.  The noise on top of everything else, it's too much for him."
"I'd still like him to have one more birthday."
"That'd be good enough.  You're right.  When he had surgery last summer, I thought that if I only had him for another year that it would be easier.  Now that the time has come and gone, I still want another year."
"I just worry that it's going to get ugly.  I don't know how we're going to deal with it."
"The only way we can, by just doing it."
"I don't know how we can, Momma."
"Just be there.  Don't complain.  If he doesn't complain, then we don't get to.  It's going to get ugly before it's over. "
The frog's congress continued.  Above, the stars circled in their sphere.  The plastic lawn chairs creaked beneath the shuffling of the two.  The yard dog sighed and stretched out before their feet.
"You know, Momma, last night I was out here and something came up behind me.  Snuck right up the drive without me even knowing it was there.  The dog chased it off.  All I saw was a shadow over the gravel running down the drive.  It didn't come back.  I kept waiting for it to, but it didn't."
     Overhead in the black velvet sky, a flash burst and trailed through the heavens until it winked out of sight.
"You see that one?"
"I saw it, Momma."
"Did you make a wish?"
"I don't make wishes."
"We should make a wish."
"It's only a shooting star."
"No, we need to make a wish."
"I don't know.  I don't see-"
"Oh, come on-"
Her breath drew faster as they stared into the sky.  Lightning flashed to the south.
"Do what you want, Momma."
There was silence.  She shook her head, breathing in deeply. Thunder spoke and all was shade and deeper bits of night.
"Our Father, who art in heaven..."

Friday, August 9, 2013


When I call myself, I whisper Orfeo.  Before me my hands reach, fingers spread, elbows locked.  Eyes, chided and fearfully tightened, create a dark as deep as Hekate's Supper.  It is this dark through which my hands reach.  I stumble to and from the land where the dead walk.  I am the spectre of the dead.  I stumble to and from the spectres of the dead. I am their pantomime.  On my shoulder a hand rests.  My eyes are tight and lidless.
Through a fog days pass.  The basement stairs are the corridor of escape.  They spiral upward and out.  I can hear the report of my footfall.  I can feel the pull of the hand on my shoulder.  In the darkness I lift my feet from step to step.  I whisper my name, Orfeo.  The railing of the stairs is cold steel beneath my  hand.  Each step is the resonance of my chest.  The warmth of my breath from my lips slips away in the sound of the stairs.  The hand on my shoulder is cold and still.  It weighs on me as I climb.
My eyes are taped shut.  Wide bands of silver tape stretch across my face.  My hair is caught in the tape against my temples.  My hair pulls at the tape on my forehead.  Sweat cools on the skin surrounding my eyes.  It runs over my cheeks and drips from my jaw.
The stairs continue.  Each landing turns to the right.  I do not have memory of so many steps.  Walking down I flew on light feet.  The climbing is now colder.  The hand weighs on my shoulder and it is also cold.
I will not see the owner of the hand.  I will not turn my head and look upon the face that follows me.  I will climb the steps secure in my darkness until the warmth of the sun falls on me.  Then I will take the hand in mine.  I climb one foot after the other.  I feel my name over my lips.  Orfeo.  In the sunlight I will sing.  I will carve the day with my name.
In the quick second between footfalls a breeze touches my ear.  My spine stiffens every hair to salute.
"These are the moments you will cherish in silence.  Know that each blind step takes you farther.  The voice you feel in your chest will soon tear through your broken throat and the fevered Maenads will circle and dance through your remains.  Blood will stain their feet like juice from the lagar."
"I will at least have you."
"In the running river waters you will think back on this time.  You will think of your courage and your voice, the tears of the gods, the surety of your hands with music, and the cold weight of my hand on your shoulder.  There will be nothing left of these moments."
"Still, I will have you."
"There will be nothing left of your songs, nothing left of your prophecies.  Time will dry your scattered bones and they will be trampled into dust."
"Say your name."
"You walk in darkness without the comfort of your name.  You walk with your eyes hidden and sealed."
"I must not look behind me-"
"You walk in darkness.  The darkness comforts you."
"I climb the steps from the land where the dead walk-"
"You move in circles and hope you are climbing."
"I bring my love from the depths of death-"
"You walk with the hand of death on your shoulder and your song forgotten on your lips.  The Maenads circle around you.  They dance with silent bare feet.  Their hands strain toward your neck as they turn.  You feel their fingers against your skin, their nails dragging and stretching the flesh.  The blood weeps and flows.  The circle hastens and the hands pierce ever deeper.  There is no pain, but a sound.  It begins in your throat and rises with the pace of the feet surrounding you.  It rings in your mind stronger than the cries from your body.  In its din the hands snap and tear against you.  Your blood is warm and spreading on the ground.  They are smiling, stained and twirling.  You are raining upon the dirt.  The cry between your teeth shatters its pitch and fails.  The hands fall upon you tightly.  They pull outwards as they spin.  What was once a man is nothing more than foreign shapes littered about dancing feet and the dirt and the cooling wetness."
"I am a man, not a shade."
"You are the memory of a moment."
"I climb the steps from the land where the dead walk."
"If it pleases you to walk, do.  If it pleases you to climb, then we may climb."
"I bring my love from the depths of death."
"Say your name."