The brown-green blades of the Gramagrass undulate in the dry breeze, and the only sound is the distant soughing of the trees. Before me stands a house—antebellum and Southern, but the breeze and the dry, scarce air tell me I’m not in the South—far from. I’m somewhere old, unfamiliar, desiccated. A door creaks and the wind lightly blows against an unseen gate. It gently knocks against the post to which it would normally fasten, and at a picnic table, two women sit debating but refusing to raise their voices and disrupt the sacred air. They talk softly, their gestures subdued, but I sense the anger they repress, jaws tightened, mouths contorted; they don’t seem to notice me.
It seems one woman entrusted the other with a large sum of money that was lost. Exchanging susurrus daggers, they hiss stings back and forth. The woman on the left pulls a purse from under the table and thrusts a couple of bills to her counterpart. They are accepted with soft indignation. I know both of them, but I can’t seem to remember their names, and they still don’t notice me, so I carry on. The veranda, a dry moat encircling the house, is enclosed in a crusty whitish-blue wooden banister left open before the two doors where a staircase lies beckoning me to cross its threshold, and where a rocking chair moves with the gentle wind that billows the curtains behind the open windows.
Making my way up the stairway and across the veranda, I hear the clop of my heavy shoes on the wooden deck; the sound engages me, overtaking the gossamer sibilance of the wind as it blows over the sagebrush, which barely covered a powerful and unnerving silence. Reaching to the doorknob, I move into the house. The foyer is dark and smells of years of emptiness, and when I enter, the door closes behind me, so gently I barely notice. A soft chanting draws me into deeper into the house. The hallway, a dark passage, leads to an even darker room into which I pass. I move forward; my feet as if separate from my mind, until I reach a large hall. No one notices me except one woman. Everyone has their heads down, and they chant in a language I don’t understand—one I’ve never heard. The one woman who looked up from her prayers makes her way to me walking gracefully through a garden of people until she stands just before me; I hear her breathing, slow and soft, calling me to join, and my body feels alive. Electric. Our eyes meet; hers glow green, juxtaposing her dark hair, skin, and eyebrows.
We stand face to face for a moment, and she puts an umbrella in my hands, which I accept with uncertainty. My body knows where I’m supposed to sit, and I let my feet take me to my place, gliding through the people until my body gently kneels itself. I don’t know the language, but I join in the chants as if something or someone behind me was pushing the air through me, and my voice sounds loud, rough, and foreign. Each sound growing from within, passing through my throat, rough and clumsy, and to my mouth where an unknown force moves my lips and jaws—aware and focused but awkward and uncoordinated.
All sound stops—we stop, and I hear rain, and it is moving across the room, toward me, through us, and as it approaches, we open our umbrellas, heads still bowing, sacrosanct, opening our umbrellas one at a time. Each umbrella is black, and unfurling them, unfolding them, and extending them we all kneel silently under a dark canopy in the soft whisper of gentle rain.
gentle and clean,
pressing itself against me.
and the fiery canopy above
watches over me.
Another gentle gust
ushers me upward
as the others spin by.
A blizzard of golds and browns.