All the colors
Of this earth,
To make into
All the colors
Of this earth,
To make into
“Why is it this way, Mama?”
The woman let the small hoe drop from her hand. She straightened, hands over the small of her back, achy from the bending. The plot was spare, and the harshness of many a hard winter had stripped most of the topsoil off, leaving more pebbles than dirt. Still, it was better than nothing, and she was thankful.
The child had been sorting stones into piles. Larger ones. Medium ones. Smaller. There were repairs to make to walls and fences, and very little in the way of clay. Sizing stones helped make the puzzle of fitting the best bit in the best place, easier. It was a tedious chore that the girl somehow managed to make into a game. She had that magic in her, Margot did, the spark of joy that Annabelle spent every night praying would not ever have cause to slough off or be snuffed out.
Annabelle nodded and turned her head toward the object of the child’s query. She’d had no option but to sit the child facing the chasm. One did not turn one’s back to the mist. Disrespectful. Ill fated. Even for children, who normally carried more protection by nature of their youth. Still, it was best to take precaution, and what the child learned early, she was less likely to forget later on and take a wrong step.
There was reason this plot was made available. Not many farmed so near the rift. Some claimed the uneasy air made foodstuffs grow small and weary.
Some did not have the luxury of growing theirs elsewhere.
“The light does not quite shine there the same way,” she said.
“What did they do?” the child’s voice was filled with pity, not fear, and Annabelle did not know whether in this particularity the compassion was something to celebrate or warn against.
“Some say they’d tied their soul to dark,” Annabelle sighed. The split and its reality was not something often spoken of. Yet unless some miracle happened and their circumstances changed, the child was destined to spend many days in close proximity to the Others’ side. It was better she heard truth from her mother, than distortions from those who felt more comfortable with lies.
She felt the child’s small hand slip into her calloused palm.
“They are not different than us, Margot. Not really. There was time before the split, before the earth heaved and the crack formed and separated this land into its pieces, where we all lived mixed together, if we even knew we were more than one kind. Now those who had happened to be on the parts that became the other side of this canyon, have the mountains dump the clouds onto them and the rapids raise a constant mist. It diminishes their sun.”
The child shuddered. Annabelle squeezed her hand to reassure her.
“There are those who chose to make their fear into a hatred, Margot. And that led to needing to make those one hated, be worthy of such ill-regard.”
“So they are good?”
“Most are. And some very likely aren’t.”
“And the big rocks?” Margot turned her head to inspect the piles she had just made. The stones balanced atop each other in formations mirroring the massive ones on the misty horizon.
“Put there, no doubt. No one quite knows why or how. Some say the ghosts of evil did it. The goblins that spit poison from the earth and crack the ground. I? I think it was people who’d arranged them. As you had the smaller ones.”
Annabelle had never shared with anyone the image that she’d seen nine months before the child was born. The figures scurrying on the impossible embankment, tucking what appeared to be smaller stones in the places where rocks nestled atop one another. The reverent silence of the people had her wonder whether they perhaps saw the rocks as headstones, memorials to those who had been lost to the maw that had swallowed so many when it had first sliced open the ground. A maw many did not believe anyone crossed.
She used her free hand to lift the girl’s chin so their eyes met. “Why did you put them this way, child?”
The gray eyes widened for a moment. In thought, not worry. “I wanted to respect the other stones, Mama. Their balance. How they don’t fall into the underside.”
Annabelle’s eyes filled. Her breath caught.
She never did find out who had forced her that night. She was blamed aplenty as it was, and so she never did tell anyone that she’d believed it had been someone who might’ve seen her watch them. Someone from the Others’ side.
Where faith remains in morning’s dawn,
There will not fade
The hope of light,
In the days of old they’d walk out on the water at high tide, appearing to float atop the waves.
It was a sign of trust.
Also of recognition. For they’d come from the water, after all. Their bodies might have forgotten how to live in it, but their cousins — seals, dolphins, whales — still held links to what was possible. And they spoke of long swims and deep dives and frolicking, and of how one day they’d all come home again.
And so they hoped.
And let themselves be carried by tentative feet on mossy rocks built far in and well past the breakers, all the way to the beginnings of the depths.
First as children whose hands were grasped by others’. Then as youngsters showing off their balance and their fearless speed (and perhaps a bit of memory from within their cells, of swiveling agility and joy being in of itself a kind of swimming). Then as new adults, saddled with fuller understanding and big bellies or wrapped by legs and arms of small ones holding tight around the waist and neck. Then as elders, wary of a fall and fearful even more of a child letting go of their hand and drowning. And at the last, as age counted no more, carried, offered, sent home to the sea.
Yes, in the days of old they’d walk out onto the water.
In celebration. In commemoration. In passage. In ritual and prayer and courage and communal hope.
Till they forgot.
And the waves licked the rocks till very little path was left, and dolphins and seals and whales no longer were spoken to and had moved on, and the earth and depths curled tight to wait.
For the people’s lungs still ached for the swim, and their heart still beat to the rhythm of the surf as they slept, and they still made a bit of ocean in their eyes, especially when they wept.
On this Earth Day
As we are all
Blue around the fingertips
Blue around the lips,
Blue in oceans, and
In the reflections of the deep,
Blue in sorrow
Blue as sky lift
To the reified aqua
May we rise
Like the sun,
And not forget how
Help each other
The farmer pruning rows of trees,
The seller in the market.
The hens that daily lay their eggs,
For tomorrow’s nest (or basket).
The driver navigating streets,
The postman carting packets.
The parent shepherding a child
In mask and zipped up jacket.
The nurses, doctors
Who have become our mascots.
The slower pace
The seeking gaze
In meetings held in tablet.
The smaller gifts
That bloom in hearts,
As parks in flowers blanket.
The ebb and flow of day to day
The births, the hope, the caskets.
The love that feeds
The good of deeds,
The evenings’ clapping racket.
For as so many things are stalled,
Kindness grows in ranking,
And we are really not at all
Out of joint in thanking.
I believe the magic
That is people,
And the unremitting wonder
That is found
In their hearts.
I believe the small,
Staunch soul rumble
Shaken but unfailing
Through the hardship,
Making handholds of the worry
All the while.
You are not welcome
You are not welcome
With words that hurt
And terms that mean to harm, divert,
There is a bigger risk
Than in keeping
You are not welcome
If you weaponize worry
Away from empathy,
Away from truth,
Away from the real challenges we share
As we ride great distances
On this one
Call this by its name.
Not by the rhetoric
Address it not in
Throw mud into the
Humanity is better
Than your insatiable need
To infect the
We’re on to you.
We will hold steady to what
We support the hardworking, factual and
You are not welcome
“There’s a hole in the sky,” the child’s voice rose then hushed in part-fear, part-wonder.
“Indeed there is,” his father nodded.
The boy flicked his eyes away from the luminescent heavens just long enough to discern that his father wasn’t joking. He’d half-hoped his father would be, and his chest flooded with something like alarm when it did not seem that he was. What does it mean to have a rent in the ceiling of the universe? Would something fall through it? Would the world cave in like a shattered egg?
“Will it repair?” His voice was small.
The man put down the kindling he’d been arranging in preparation the evening’s fire. He straightened to a stand and leaned a heavy hand on the narrow shoulders of his son. Bird-like, the boy was. Fluttery and slight.
His youngest had always been a bit prone to the dramatic. The first to pick up on a change in atmosphere, the first to be reduced to tears, the first to wail at even the smallest prickling. Also the first to smile a welcome, the first to notice a green leaf peeking out of the frozen ground, the first to note the song of birds or a task well done.
He worried about such a skinless child, walking a life that did not always refrain from brushing far too crassly against tenderness. There were plenty of those who had repeatedly pressed him to be firmer with the youngster. To “toughen up the boy into a man” or “teach him how to grow a thicker skin.”
“How would I change the stripes upon a tiger?” he’d find himself replying. “Can I will a doe to become a lion?”
He could not bring himself to pain the boy as means to scar him into roughness. The child was made to be whomever he was made to be, and all a father could do was try to shepherd him toward maturity. Such as when taking the boy on this father-son hunting journey.
He squeezed his son’s shoulder and the boy raised a frightened face to meet his eyes.
“The sky will repair, Son,” he said, “though it may not go back to what it was before. For nothing can. It will move on — from day to night to cold to warmth to wind to storm. It will tear holes in clouds for sun to stream through. It will shred them to no shade. It will sew the threads together to again cover the sun. It is all as it is and all as it should become.”
The boy nodded. He swallowed down the tears that threatened, and tried to still the tremulous vibration of the world inside his mind.
“Now, as the sky does what it can,” the man handed his son a water-skin. “Let us do what we must. If you will fetch water, I will light the fire in tonight’s hearth.”
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