16 April 2008
It was late afternoon
and the world was innocent,
cold, lacking in introspection,
but, nevertheless, innocent.
Guilt would come later
and without much thought.
I was six years old
in dirt smudged overalls,
barefoot, shirtless, looking
for all the world
like I'd been planted
among the rows of corn,
an innocent sky overhead,
sad, silent, graydark, near tears,
knowing the storm is coming,
followed by a flood of rain.
No light, the kerosene lantern
was a memory of Aunt Beulah's face,
angelic, brightly glowing,
a flickering flame inside the glass,
and shadows dancing
against the far wall.
Night: a black sky set in black
at night in my room.
deep black, shadowless black:
my room, my hand, the walls,
the icebox, the window pane.
until the lightning flash.
The lightning flashed.
And then the thunder.
After the flash
darkness, a deep well
lacking an exit,
as if the flash
was a false memory.
A flash of darkness
and the dirty yellow roller shades
above my head
faded from sight
and the thunder crept up my back.
Moments passed, moments, a six year old's
moments: long, interminable moments:
and the intimate thunder
gave way to distant thunder, a tease
on the other side of black.
of thunder, an expansive
silence and then rain.
Whispers in the torrent.
Intimations of things to come.
Six years old, under linen sheets
in the darkness of the room on a cot
opposite the racklerackle refrigerator
who complained when the thunder stopped
as if saying "I'm still here. You don't scare me."
But it did scare me, the lightning, the thunder,
the racklerackle after the thunder died,
the memories of houses burning in the night.
The lightning came back,
slapping at the edges of the shade.
Sometimes I would reach
for the edges of the shade,
pull just enough to peer outside
and look into the blackness
of the moment in between the moment
when the flash shot white
and sent me quick under the linen sheet.
I could hear the mice inside the walls
scratching, fidgeting, restless.
Perhaps they, too, were afraid.
After the thunder, the rain again:
Waves of noisy rain beating the house,
patting my window, insistent, incessant,
waking the dead.
The smell of mold is strong tonight.
In the middle of the rainy night
I hear the dead whispering.
My great grandmother speaking Chickasaw.
My great uncle talking in his sleep.
My cousin Hannah kneeling at my bedside
telling me to open my eyes.
Each and every one of them present
in the aftermath and each and every one
and anger easily.
But Hannah is not angry,
just wants me to open my eyes,
but I will not open my eyes.
This night of whispering wind and thundering rain,
of confusion painted in swatches of color
underneath my eyelids,
underneath the linen.
I feel Hannah touch me,
but I will not open my eyes
until I cannot help but open my eyes.
© 2008, Satya J. Gabriel