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.

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