Hearing The Road

A story that is a poem that ends in a prayer

The storm has passed but I take an umbrella because lightning and thunder are everywhere. Fat drops fall from forest leaves onto my tin roof as I close the door and walk down the path to the street. My feet mumble over white stones which do not hurt me. It is easier to walk barefoot on the cool mud than in slippery sandals and I do not bother with boots.

I am walking down the soft cool road in the gleaming, dripping night. In the tall weeds and wildflowers beside me frogs are wildly rejoicing and a chorus of rain-beaten mosquitoes rises. My feet whisper. I hum. Drops plop from high leaves, dampening my hair. I walk toward the streetlight on the corner, watching the ground for sharp stones or slick snakes.

Suddenly the night snaps to black. Pitch black. The black of the night when God created the world. Black so close your breath is suddenly in your ears. Black without a star, without a moon, without a lamp or a flame. The black of closed eyes when they are wide.

I stop in my tracks. The way ahead, the way back, the sides of the road – all are erased. Now I cannot walk. I could wander into the wet weeds or put my bare foot on a silent snake.

My eyes widen and find the dripping forest flickers with fireflies: the world before time, the world right now. Night has been resurrected by a fallen electric line somewhere. I stand still, listening to the music of night creatures, watching firefly constellations flicker.

Then ahead there is a flash in the sky. Billowing thunderclouds are revealed by the light in their bellies and the road ahead of me appears like a momentary black and white photograph, with puddles shining bright. A long rumble shakes the air.

I take two steps forward in the blackness and then stop. I wait, the night pressed against my skin.

When a flickering in the southern sky starts again, I step quickly forward, as many steps as I can, until the rumble sounds and blackness closes over my head.

I am a little night animal walking on my path at the bottom of the forest. The world is gone and I am alone under the enormous black sky among trees. In my bones I feel my grandmothers who were not strangers to the dark. Their instincts softly stir.

And then I hear it. I hear the road. I hold my breath and there it is, clear as noon in the opaque night of closed eyes. It is the quiet place around me, the empty space in forest frog songs and chirping shrills. It is the space with no raindrops tapping on leaves. It is a pause in the rainy jungle night-music stretching before me and behind.

I step slowly forward into blackness without waiting for lightning, hearing the road between the trees. My toes slide forward, looking for stones and I step calmly into the quiet dark space.

 

Break the lines and let me keep this dark.
Do not lift the spell of night.
Let me walk along this road, trying to hear the way.

For Coco, Fifteen Years Years Later

(A poem about a dream about my little dog who never lived to be a big dog.)

In the dream he isn’t my dog,
he’s my sister’s but I would
know him anywhere -
silky black fur smooth as an
otter, soft ears of a lop-eared
bunny.

In the dream it’s his neck
that snaps, not his pelvis and
I do it myself out of carelessness
not Doña Daisy in her rattling
red truck as she sees him
run toward me and she doesn’t break
even a little.

Either way it was an accident.

I frantically flip through the phone book
searching for vets and they
take him away to be examined and
then peacefully put down.
Not brought home whimpering
in the car where he lays in
shit for two days refusing to eat
refusing to drink and
finally my husband gives up
glaring at me and calls Angulo to
come over with his shotgun and
do it while we cower inside
covering our ears, all waiting for mercy.

The Dumb Broom Man (from “When The Roll Is Called A Pyonder”)

(from When The Roll Is Called A Pyonder, a memoir.  Release date:  August 19, 2014, eLectio Publishing.)

Outside on the porch is the milk box. It’s gray metal with a lid that opens and shuts. It has to stay shut so kitties don’t get trapped in there. The Milk Man comes and puts full milks in the milk box. Mommy puts the empty ones in there at night and then she gets the full ones back out in the morning. I don’t even know what The Milk Man looks like because he comes so early in the morning the sun isn’t up and I’m not awake yet.

Who I do see is The Broom Man. The Broom Man sells brooms. If you don’t know The Broom Man, you have to go to the store when you want a broom but The Broom Man knows us, so he brings them to our house. The Broom Man’s deaf and dumb.

It isn’t nice to call people dumb but this is a different kind of dumb that means you can’t talk. I like The Broom Man because he’s nice and he always gives me a yellow butterscotch sucking-candy. I feel sorry for him because he can’t hear and he can’t talk and everyone says he’s dumb. It isn’t that kind of dumb, but still, everyone says it and he can’t even hear them. I wonder if he knows people say that. Anyway, it would be hard to be smart if you can’t hear anything.

New Book Release Date: August 19, 2014

Great news! I sent a manuscript off to a small publisher about a month ago, figuring I might as well get started with my 5 years of rejection letters and…THEY WANT TO PUBLISH IT! On one hand, of course I’m not surprised. I wouldn’t be sending out a manuscript if I thought it sucked. On the other hand, I really DID expect a discouraging pile of rejection letters first. Of course, as I’ve had the manuscript sitting in my computer for the last 8 years, maybe I gave myself the pile of rejection letters without ever having sent it anywhere.

The books is a very early childhood memoir called “When The Roll Is Called A Pyonder.” What’s a Pyonder? That’s what I wondered. And I guess you’ll have to read it to find out.

I was raised in a fairly conservative Mennonite family in Lancaster County, PA. It’s a microculture, really. For so many years after moving away, I wanted to write about it, but it’s so delicate that I’felt every time I tried to touch it I ruined it a little. Like a butterfly. Nothing sensational or shocking happened to me as a child – no skeletons in the closet – I just wanted to tell the story of what it’s like to be THAT innocent.

The earliest memory I have of working on this story was in 2001 sitting in a hammock on the front porch of the hotel where I was working in Tamarindo, Costa Rica. I’d already been off to college where I obtained a degree in theatre, moved to Costa Rica, been married and was recently divorced from my first husband and was in the process of becoming an avid surfer. Maybe that’s how far away I had to go in order to turn around and have a look at the farm in Manheim; to see it some sort of perspective to the rest of the world.

The book is like a photo album with pictures taken in words, not with a camera and the photos are taken by the child. The stories are all told in the voice and from the perspective of the child that I was. I grow and learn to ask questions and analyze things in my own childish way.

I personally find most of the book hilariously funny and so do my sisters and my nieces and nephews. I am bursting with curiosity at how the rest of the world will receive it. Apart from spanking there’s no violence and apart from a kiss behind the couch, there’s no sex so I hope it holds the attention of readers. ELectio Publishing seems to think it will. And honestly, so do I.