Circle Dawn

[June 2008]

 

Heavens rupture and I’m unbound. My newfound eyes, mucus-clung and wild, are blinded in a storm of light. I am bare-gummed and sticky-tongued.

It was the brightest sunrise ever told.

Ma clutched the bed-frame and let out a damaged wail, and I with her. Screams of separation bawled from newborn lungs, sung in desperation and unfurled in streams of love. Bewildered; love ewe-pure and terrified. Spun in the gap carved between; love that longed for nothing more and nothing less than a return to the moment before.

Pa spat and swore and tore the curtains from the frame to bundle me in, his arms burly, thick with hair and with worry. The sky then gazed in, soaring over the knotted mountain peaks and enflaming the pine beams with a cherry timber fury as my howls filled the walls. But not yet cut, I remember the scene through two pairs of eyes, our senses still conjoined; the severing not yet complete. Pa took up a fish-cleaver and offered Ma a mug of gin. She swung at his head with a clenched fist and a throat full of cursing and gulped down the gin, spilling it across her bosom. And such a bosom! Fatty pillows of peace on which to rest. As the sun roared over the horizon Pa gripped the knife and cut the cord.

I was born upon the break of day and they called me Dawn, for mine was the morning.

My sense then faded. Even as Pa wiped me down and wrapped me in the curtain, the light had already begun to dim into a forgetting that lasted a few fair years. Ma took me into her bosom, into the valley between, and as I buried my face in her warmth I slipped away on a slumbering lullaby.

Sailing blind into the night,
Torn, my sail –

Ma’s voice was so soothesome that by the second line I was gone.

 

***

 

No smell more homeful than that of gin! The juniper-berry brush of childhood, colouring all my earliest rememberings. Hung in mists of breath and seeping from the walls, scattered in bowls and pans and dripping through the lampshade, gin gin gin, a gin soaked tea-cosy and bathtubs full of gin, bubbling gin-pigeon-stew and gin sewn breeches, sloe-berry-tonsil-burn and gin suckled from Ma’s purple swollen nipple.

Pa worked on the hills by day. He stumbled out early and rarely returned until after dusk fall, then worn and arm-weary. By night the gin worked on Pa and he’d fire up a liquorice rage. He never was a bad man but his fists were heavy and loose and Ma had a mouth with a whipping tongue. They would drink and laugh and roar at each other and drink and get heat up and sometimes it took a storm to clear the weight between them. Many a morning Ma held me to her bruises and I’d sooth them in my breath, watching them fade purple to green. She’d bathe her aches in camomile and then hide a stick of carrot amidst the rafters, “for luck and love” she said, and then drink some more gin and I’d nestle my face in her kindly belly.

Always the next night they would wrap me in a blanket and put me in a box, they’d take the box round to the bathtub in the field out back and leave me there a spell while they rolled around the kitchen floor. One time they clean forgot all about me and I sat under the table and watched Pa bury his face in Ma’s dress, just as I loved to. He hitched up her skirt and growled into her bosom and she shrieked and laughed, knocking her head against the table and beating his back joyously with her palms. I shrieked and laughed with her and beat the floor with a ladle.

Even as a girl the hills were in me, and as soon as I had the arms to crawl I had instincts for digging. I never understood when I saw the rabbits run about that they were anything different to me, and if Ma left me about the floor and lay down her head upon the table for a lazy late-morn snooze, then by the time she woke again I would have crawled out the door and dug myself deep into a rabbit warren or under the floorboards and Pa would have to fish me out like a gill-hooked trout with his belt strap once he got home.

It wasn’t just rabbits I had a feeling for either, it was moths and bees and all sorts of creature. I often tried to rescue the pigeons and crows from Ma’s cooking pot even as she hung them in, I’d wait for her back to turn and then hook them with sticks and swap them for an old shoe or hat and sit back and watch her brew them up. Sometimes she was so merrily off with her gin, singing and swaying, that she didn’t notice until she dished them out on Pa’s plate and then he’d roar and laugh. I’d still eat the birds down happily enough mind, it’s a rare dish that’s more succulent than Ma’s pigeon-pie, but always I’d save a strip of the meat and bury it out in the field so the bird could grow back overnight. And usually they did too, for when I went to check in the morning the meat would be gone from the ground and the sky would be full of singing.

I could climb before I could speak, though climbing is speaking of a sort when all your company is trees. Days I’d spend up amongst the leaves, learning to map the branches, and to read the lessons caught in the mazed canyons and weather-worn crevices of the bark. Sometimes snails would join me and would spell out their ways in sticky silver trails across the trunk, and I’d laugh and listen and be still for I always believed they had something important to say or show. I befriended all that I came across and one spring when I found a lady-spider nesting up a plum tree I climbed every morning to give her company and wait for her eggs to hatch. When they did I let them run all up my arms and we watched the sudden drop of blossom from the branches and found our shapes hidden in the spiralled fall.

The house was perched in the navel of the valley, a flimsy box stranded in the vastness of the land, dropped amidst the meadows as the bellybutton of the wilderness. Of only one room, it moaned and creaked with the wind and bent and swayed, and on a stormy brew it threatened to blow clear off above the hills. It held an old oak table sat below the window, with a wood-burner beside, and a rack for Ma’s pots and spoons. There was a bed lodged in the far corner, heavily blanketed, with a rug beneath on the floor for me. The walls and ceiling were red and timberous and bare. To the east of the house the towering Tierin’ Mountains soared into the high, their haggard shoulders taller than birds or smoke could fly. The peaks slipped down in a violent cascade of bare cliff and scree, stopping short a few hundred yards further up from the back window. Then in the west the hills rose and tumbled good-naturedly up over the horizon, spool-loosed and endlessly unravelling into the distance, on and beyond. Sunk between was the valley. Lush and budded with colour and cool and swathed in pastures and meadow, etched over by the trickle of numberless meandering streams and scattered groves of tree-canopied shade; and clutching the house as the only trace of human life, adrift amidst the green.

I loved the valley and always refused to dump unless I was there beneath the sky. As a baby Ma would have to dangle me at arm’s length over a bucket out back and I would laugh and yelp and point at the mountains and then dump and piss all over unless she was careful to hold me steady and aim me right. She would clean me with dock leaves and rub wildflowers on my belly and then smell my skin and squeal like a pig-on-a-skewer and tell me I was born of a spring meadow.

None would pass our way apart from the wandering monks on their pilgrimage but there was always a steady stream of them, one or two ambling through the valley every week or so. They’d stop by and talk to Pa sometimes and he’d offer them gin and usually they’d say no though sometimes they accepted with a storm in their eyes.

In the field behind the house there was an old tub and once a while I’d bathe with Ma. Oftentimes she was drunk and would fall asleep and one morning she was snoozing away when some monks came by. I was sat in the mud laughing at her tits, hung from her head like two full-moons in the sky. They seemed to get bigger and lower by the year and as she snored they quivered and bounced together. Mine hadn’t started growing yet but Ma promised one day they’d be heavy like hers and I always smiled at the thought of it though I could never imagine it being true. The pilgrims passed by the house as I was sat and they stopped to rest and talk. They sat on the grass opposite me and turned their backs respectfully from Ma was who still bare naked and spread sideways in the tub. I asked them why they were always walking back and forth over the hills, endlessly wandering, and they told me that pilgrims had trod the trail for longer than memory as there was a chapel beyond the hills in which was buried a holy saint. They said they were going to pay their respects to the saint and ask him to pray on their behalf. They said he was closer to God already so God could hear his prayers better. I didn’t understand their words, but I dug them up a worm and offered it to them to eat and asked them if they didn’t think Ma’s tits looked like two full-moons dangled from heaven. They didn’t stay long after that.

From as soon as I was walking I always spent as much time in the hills as the days allowed. I’d run away in the early morn and not return until late at night, beckoned home as Pa was, always by the comforting draw of gin. Ma didn’t much miss me and was settled for me to run about while she slept on the table or in the bath, though if she needed company I’d always sit by her. Sometimes I’d help Pa with his plants and seeding though mostly I just roamed. The valley and the hills had the seeming of being so vast when I was young I thought I’d never have enough days to search them all out properly; I wanted to investigate round every cave and corner, name every tree and trace the swerve of each mountain stream. When I helped Ma clean the dishes in the spring I’d practice listening to the water and its songs, and from the trickle and the splash I learnt of the movement of things and of following where you’re taken without question, and from then on when I roamed I always tried to move like a stream drawn in simple movements by the ground and my feet.

I ran and I wandered, and sometimes I sat and I waited. When the weather turned rough and I was caught out I sheltered under root-hung awnings in the side of the hills and they’d show me the beetles and the worms and life under the dirt. Then when the sun broke through I’d run up to the top of the valley and stare into the mountains and I’d find my face in the cliff-sheer and I’d hear my name spoken in drips from the canopy.

The older I got the less time I spent at the house. Sometimes I wondered what Ma was upon but I always felt more homely with the hills. I came to spending most of my nights as well as my days out in the valley, sheltered in a cave or warren, eating leaves and bark and digging under crumbled stumps for rocks and roots and secrets. Sometimes I’d still drop by Pa or go and visit Ma, but most times when I went back to the house they were passed out-cold on the table, bottles all over pouring drink upon the floor while they cussed and swore under their breath in gin-scored dreams. If I woke Pa he’d curse and shout and thump the table and then drink more gin and laugh and tussle my hair and fall asleep again. So I left them be. And in the hills I learnt how to spin yarn and brew root-stew. I grew parsnips and lived by sun and season. I was near to the ground and contentful.

The moons wound through seasons, and each one playfully passed swifter than the one before, and the slow days I walked through when I was young that stretched on-and-on unending became a strange memory. Hours and days over-brimmed. And the seasons wove into years and I found I was fully grown and almost tall as Pa, though my bosom was never so swollen as Ma’s. I stopped going to the house and each time I saw Ma and Pa the more frail they seemed. One evening I came across Pa stumbling through the valley and he looked gaunt and faint. He was heavy with gin and roared at me angrily when he recognised who I was. I asked him why he was so thin and if Ma was the same and he cursed and told me he was fading away, fading to dust. “One day I’ll be none but dust, Dawn. None but dust!” I gave him a pillow woven from willow hair for Ma and he stumbled off singing a lonesome rhyme of clouds fallen and of forgetting.

Soon as I met my Tom I knew I’d never step foot in the house again. He was a pilgrim like the rest only he was never a monk, he just lived as they did and walked with them, back and forth and then back again, trampling the hills and paying respects to the chapel and the saint. They stopped by one day as I was on my knees tilling the earth. I made them nettle-tea and talked some and my Tom took a fancy to my ways. That afternoon when the others walked on, he stayed. The monks pleaded and cautioned him a pilgrimage unfinished is a grave weight to bear, but he laughed and bid them be off and every crease of his face was full of smiling. That night under the moon he kissed me. I took him by the cliff into my cave and he found warmth within the mossy darkness and I taught him to draw honeyed dew from the walls. By morning we were in love and he pledged never to leave me.

From then on my Tom was my life. All my being was tied up in him and his kind eyes. When we walked together all the trees and streams could see how full of love we were and murmured their approval. I was blossoming and fresh when he found me while his hair was already grey and his shoulders full of years but no two could ever be better fitting. His voice was rich and thick as the most fertile muck in the meadows and he told me in earthy oaths how happy I made him and then picked wildflowers for my wrists. I led him through the valley and showed him the sear of noon burnt into the high cliffs, and by the cool of dusk I took him beneath heavily laden trees and offered to him sticky ripe fruit to swell in his hands and burst across his tongue. We washed each other in fresh springs and every day the mountain streams would run clear and cold.

There was one day I asked him why he left the other pilgrims and why he chose to stay with me in the hills. He laughed his kind laugh and sat me on a hunch-elbowed boulder and he told then a tale of the mad abbot Mawley.

“One fine day the abbot was to be seen riding furiously around town on his mule. He rode from the southern border to the northern gate and back again. He rode urgent and anxious. People came from their houses all around to see and asked him what he was searching for. He rushed back and forth and back once more and paused only long enough to say, ‘My mule, I am searching for my mule!’ before galloping off again.”

I didn’t see sense in the tale and my Tom kissed my knees and told me he didn’t either until he met me, and then he tickled my belly-button and promised me one day I would understand.

We lived in the valley and the evenings were long and bright and our love grew from the land as the grass, and everywhere we went we found it thick and lush and we lay in it happy. We walked the hills and were known and welcomed far and wide by hosts of creature and plant. When hunger came, the tree and the bush provided us with thick knots of bark and leaves for our pot, and fresh springs burst up from the earth to quench our want through hazy summer-noons. We figured blankets from feathers bound in abandoned horse-hair and made our home where the day and the hills showed us.

Riverrun below, and upon beckoning we turned to the mountains, following the wind’s turn. There we stood unmoving beneath the peaks for day upon days, stripped of care and of need. But then once more the sinking cloud or ebbing moon would rouse us and we would set off a wandering again a lone a last across the land.

By night my Tom rested his head on a mouldy stump and I slept on his shoulder. I curled up inside each of his snores and I would dream of my Tom. In the morning I’d wake him with steaming nettle-tea, wild mushrooms and bean-green soup, and my day would be Tom. When I walked through the hills he was there and when I slept in the valley he was there. There was no place in my life that wasn’t filled by my love.

None ever was so happy as me and my Tom.

And then one morning he was gone.

Tom? I woke with my cheeks flushed and resting on the dirt. There was a cold silence dripping from the sky and I knew right away that something was amiss. “Tom?” I called for my Tom and my voice echoed across the valley, it searched the cliffs and the caves, it rose into the hills and faded into the quiet of the horizon. Where was my Tom?

I made nettle-tea and left it by his stump hoping he would return at the smell and I walked through the valley down to the stream. There I doused my head beneath the icy surface and washed my body in the shallows. I scrubbed my feet with smooth rocks and hung danking pond-weeds from my hair for curls. I scrubbed my clothes and wrung them out. I lay naked in the grass and let beetles crawl up my legs. I waited for my Tom the only way I knew how, but still he didn’t come.

Searching my memory I hunted a trace of reason he could be gone but there was none to be told. When creatures passed by I begged their council, but not the woodlouse nor the shrew could tell me his place nor lead me to any more knowing. He told me he never would leave me and there were none with eyes so honest and true as my Tom so I knew he never would.

Beneath a silver birch I paused and gazed into a darkly puddle, and I traced memories of all my days through the shimmer of my skin. Reflected rosy in my cheeks I saw my youth and the simple steps of my eager feet, Ma was the tough of my teeth and Pa the aimless tumble of my hair. There perched on my temples sat the house and my mouth was the cave we sheltered in. I dug deeper and travelled through the folds and canyons of my skin, searching for my love in the cracks and in the contours. I climbed behind my jaw and buried beneath my eyes, I danced through my lashes and crouched in the shadows of my brow, I sat lonesome upon my chin but I found no trace of my Tom for he had gone from me.

Those days were tort and frosted. By daylight I gathered the land beneath me in searching, beyond the angled slopes and deep within then the drippen-darkness of caves. Night, and I lay shivering and I searched the sky, looking for a trace or an echo among the stars, but of all their volumes of wisdom, all ancient and yet-unhappened, none could tell me of where he was gone to.

My voice, swollen with sadness and loss, became the wind. I cast out his name and my call swept across the land. In the pastures of the valley it was a softly breeze and across the roll of hills it was a yearning wail, at the foot of the cliff it was a resolute echo and soaring the peaks of the Tierin’ it was a cacophonous roar. There wasn’t a blade of grass or a cliff-hidden cranny that didn’t hear me calling for my Tom. When it rained the clouds would echo my search in their thunder and in the hollow of night my voice whispered across the surface of the moon.

Seasons passed and I with them. In summer months I lay in worry beneath the sun and it cracked my skin, my bones grew brittle and my mouth dried up and sleep was brief and blistered. Autumn turned and I shed my hair and my nails, the sky cast over with my sadness and my eyes mistied with dew and a forgetting fog. I grew faint, yet thin and faded I searched on. Winter, and I slept, deep in drifts of lonesome snow. But still I was held together by a fragile tapestry of memory and come spring, after many months of silence, my voice cracked the icy stillness once more, piercing the unforgiving cold with a single flickering question, Tom? My voice brought light to my eyes and thawed my thighs, the frost across my back fractured and I picked myself up from the earth again and I cried for my love. My tears were the streams that melted from the mountain and replenished the meadows, my eyelids the buds of tomorrows-flower. My hair grew thick and long and I plumped with hope. Again I rose up, as certain and full of anger as a spring storm and I bellowed anew. In renewed rage I cast about. I summoned black hail that lashed across the land and thundered upon the earth, I scaled the fearsome mountain ascent and sought beyond the horizon, calling his name all the while, searching, always searching, never tired. Until summer returned. And so I lived, in cycle with the seasons.

In time I stopped eating. I sat in the foothills by the pilgrims trail and did not move but waited to be passed by. In the thick tangle of my hair magpies came to nest and from my spine grew a stooped and haggard tree. It was dark, black barked and double-bent. The branches were thorny and distressed and yet I found them bountiful and bloated with every kind of fruit and leaf. When monks walked by I would feed them crackled nuts and berries from my branches and plums and peaches from my hair, they would pick my leaves for their pipe and for their horses I split open a vein and they drank freely on my sap.

The monks asked me why I sat there so and tried to persuade me to eat with them. I told them I was waiting for my Tom for he had gone from me, and in concerned tones they asked if I truly knew not where he was. I told them true that I knew not where, for there were some days when he was especially tired that my Tom had talked strange words of years and of passing, he spoke of the Bible and of the second birth and the Son risen from the earth but I never understood and I’d ruffle his silly hair and tell him to stop his nonsense talk and he’d see his silliness and smile and laugh and roll me in the grass, and then he’d tell me true he never would leave me. The monks smiled kindly but unknowing at me and told me in gentle words that Tom was dead and that I would die too unless I ate something. In no gentle words I bid them be off, for my Tom’s oath was harder than the cliffs and the emptiness of the world without him filled my belly.

Age crept through me as vines up branches and I took to roaming less. I spread my legs between the foot of the cliffs and the stretch of hills and the cave in which Tom and I used to shelter from the night grew dry and tired. An awning of cobwebs hung above, while bats slumbered within.

I found on occasions that the wind had begun to carry away my memory and sometimes when I walked through the fields I found I could no longer recall my Tom’s kind eyes or the feel of his voice. So one day when the sun rose I refused to rise with it, I lay in stillness and let the day pass over me and I focussed all my thoughts on rememberings of my Tom. That night too I was still. The next day again, and again the next, I was unmoving. The hill took me as his own, the grass stopped growing beneath me and grew through and around me. I watched the stars and the sun spin across the sky in a patterned dance beyond and I did not move. Seasons fell. Animals walked over me but did not recognise me as different from the rocks and the earth. One spring a family of deer grazed on my chest and ripped tufts of grass and hair from my cheeks. The doe lapped from my eyes, two refreshing pools hollowed in the side of the hill. I remained still, refusing to move in a world without Tom.

And then one day with a simple understanding I knew it was to be the last. I rose for the first time in longer than I could recall and the earth ripped with me as I stood. Trailing torn roots and clods of soil, I wandered the landscape in a confused aimlessness, my face bristled with hair and my legs weak and bent. For the first time in many seasons, and for the final time, I passed through the valley. Along streams and brooks I stumbled, through distant groves and pastures, under trees and under sun. In a far-away confusion I came across a remembering and I stopped. Before me was the house, displaced and isolated amidst the meadows. So old was I that I barely recognised the wooden beams and tumbled bathtub. I stood still and stared for several hours before I could place it in my memory.

I approached and pushed the door. It was rusted with age and complained a creak when I touched, but despite my weak arms I managed to haul it open. Inside everything was just as I remembered it, yet thick with dust. Ma and Pa had long since faded. Gin hung heavy in the air as an embracing cloud, musky in the atmosphere and billowing out of the opened door into the field. I had the feeling that Ma and Pa were perhaps not yet fully passed, that they were still present somewhere in the mist; the spirit dwelling in the after in what it loved most in life. In slow and absent movements I cleaned the house and tidied the pans and spoons. To nurture their spirits I poured two mugs of gin and left them on the table. I lit a candle and left it burning by the window and then walked up into the hills to die.

Past understanding and relieved to be over, I paused at the foot of the cliff and watched the final fade of day. As I contemplated the gloaming my footsteps and my years rose within me and carried me up into the peaks. Heavy with sadness, I sunk back into the cold stone and it softly accepted my form as my spine stiffened into the ascent. My hunched shoulders, swollen under the gathering blizzard of time, filled the haggard summit and hung ancient above the land. My skin was traced into the rock-face, poured in the cracks as darkening shadows by the dimming of my light. My legs left me, unsettled to end with the mountains and went down into the valley. They meandered off amongst the meadows and the streams, trickling out below and away. I laid back and spread my arms wide. They were the endless tumble of the hills and my open embrace stretched over the horizon and beyond. I surrendered my body to the earth. My blood seeped and suffused into the red dirt, my bones the rocks beneath. My teeth tumbled out and fell as scree at the foot of the cliff as moss thickened my tongue. The house remained, alone in my navel; the very last place. The day gone and with it my final breath, the softest breeze that slipped into the night.

And now night. The darkness folding in swathes of forgetting; a cold expanse slipping away, beyond mountain and sky, and with it, I, drained and bled of memory. Night, and a dark so deep it has lost its name. Black born of black begetting black, wrapped and smothered in deeper shades of forgetting. Starless night, slate night, charcoal soot darkness in shadow-drawn eyes. I am disremembered. As a stream falling into an endlessly empty well, my life, my senses, and my memory pour away and are gone. Ma and Pa, the curtains and the bathtub, the hills and the trees, the sun and the sky, the years and my love, pulled away and lost. I am unended and empty, unpoured and hollow. Only one thing remains, the faintest tickle in my navel, Tom’s finger in my belly-button, now formless and senseless; the rest dispersed. A distant song lulls me into slumber,

Sailing blind into the night,
Torn, my sail –

Lost in a final black forgetting, I sleep

 

***

 

Dawn

 

Dawn

 

Dawn

 

Dawn. Movement deep within me. Ten thousand torsos and a thousand eyes writhe through cracks in the clodded cold, twist in fissures of damp and traverse the darkness in layered maps of weight and chill. Some move in hope and others in fear, some drawn by instinct and others by will, but each and all in sense of the self-same promise above. Dawn. And above the writhe and the wriggle there is the web that binds together; the lattice of life, tangled and entwined, thirsty anchors coiled and sunk into the below. Understanding here is shared, and there are none that have not heard. Dawn, a peal repeated. The surface is broken and a million spines tremble at the approach, unnumbered earthen voices whispering across the sky a leafen-chanted incantation to banish the chasm of dark and summon their colour upon the rising glow. “Dawn”, spoken at last in a voice I love so dear, and in the far the sun is rising.

He’s here. In a muck-rich cow dung laugh swinging across the meadows, the silent bellow of his full-bellied cheer upon my pastured bosom. Here, in the distant rumble of burbling snores, rising from the bubbling mountain springs and filling the hollow into day. His big old hands here upon the hills, brushing the frost-thawed dirt across my brow. His kindly eyes told of in rumours upon the swallow’s high-chirped song; his name sneezed in bursts of purple upon my crested cliff shoulders. Here, his smiling face written within the dance of shadow cast through the trees and scattering the land. The hills and the valley are my body, the mountains and the streams, and he is the glow shone upon me. Here at last, my dear Tom; and he was here all along.

All my days spent in searching, hurrying back and forth across the hills just like the pilgrims, lost in a silly confusion, madly galloping upon my mule. Now I find him. In the glimmering eyes of every bug and beetle, the dizzying stillness of lichen-wrought stone, in the vein-mapped oak leaf and the march of the squirming worm, cloud-bound dung-steam and wildflower-smile, he is in them all. My body now the earth, I feel with the timeless stillness of the hills and hear with ears of leaf and flower. I smell through the damp gasping dirt and pierce the sky in jagged and ancient reach. I am the permanence of the wilderness and my Tom is the cycle of movement. He falls upon me through as many different senses as there are leaves on the trees, in as many shapes and forms as there are creature and bug upon my earthen face. He is the light aglow in the sky, the sun, risen from the earth in second birth.

And now that I can see, I realise he was always there. He was the squelching bottom of every hole I dug as a girl and the squeeze of damp dirt between my fingers. When I roamed it was he who was under my every footstep, crouched in the bath-tub and hidden below the table. His kindly words have been whispering in my ears all my days since I was born. The uncounted hours as a child I spent up amongst the branches, trying to learn the language of the trees, now I understand and the only word they ever spoke was his name. I feel him with the springs and streams of the meadows, sparkling with joy of recognition. I feel him crack across my shoulders in a piercing burst of warmth. I feel him filling the valley, I feel him filling the sky. My eyes are the sky, and he is all I can see. Here all along, my dear Tom, still tickling my belly.

All I ever had to do was stop searching and lay down my body with the hills.

As the light gathers across the valley, his warmth is a stream that flows into the heavens. I abandon my body of earth. I leave behind the mountains and the trees, and go into the sky with him. But as I rise there remains a connection, taut as a hog’s rawhide. A linger. It is the tickle in my belly-button, undiminished, a sense that swells and flares. The tickle grows into an itch that tightens, sharper and deeper, into a violent scream of pain. The pain is as intense as anything I’ve ever known and it overwhelms my every sense and begins to pull me away, dragging me back from my Tom, down into the earth. In terror I look down, and with the eyes of the sky I search desperately for the source.

There in my navel is the house. It is the very last place, a flimsy wooden box stranded in the vastness of the land, rickety and timberous and creaking uncertainly beneath the cliffs. It is the root. I look closer and in the window the curtain is torn from the frame. A man with thick arms, heavy with hair and worry, turns to the bed. And there on the bed is a woman, her legs spread wide and her naked bosom dripping with sweat. Her screams and cusses echo across the valley as tears tumble from her eyes. Before her a squirming bundle is coughing fluid in bare-bloodied and vulnerable gasps, bewildered by its sudden release. Its desperate screams fill the walls in mucus-clung and timeless howls, howls of love and anguish and love again. The pine beams enflame with a cherry timber fury as I gaze in, and the pain is devastating, it burns everything from my awareness. The man takes up a fish-cleaver and hands the woman a mug of gin, she spits and swings at his head with a wild fist then gulps it down, spilling it across her bosom. As the sun bursts over the horizon he grips the knife and cuts the cord.

Heavens rupture and I’m unbound. My newfound eyes, fully-loosed and wild, are blinded in a storm of light. Fading below, a baby’s howls echo across the fields, bare-gummed and sticky-tongued, as she clings in desperation at the swollen sweaty nipple above her.

I am Dawn and I am the morning, ablaze in the sky.

It is the brightest sunrise ever told.

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