night mother

The Ferryman leans over me, shakes me gently. “Wake up,” he says,  “you’ve been dreaming.”

I am confused. It’s dark and chill. Where am I?

The ground is damp underneath me. There is a sweet, bent grass scent to it. People are moving about. I pull myself up to sitting.

The dark is not impenetrable, it will be light soon. Someone is seeing to a fire. My hair is wet and full of debris. I sit cross-legged on the sandy ground with a blanket around my shoulders. I don’t know yet what my job is. There is no call to movement in me.

Someone comes to see to my hair. Two young girls comb the tangles out. They are a little scared of me, awed by the mess and the struggles it tells of. I don’t remember where I’ve been.

Across the fire sits an old woman. Naked and cross-legged, she sits untroubled. She watches me. It’s her I want. She watches me.

It is hard to get from where I am to where she is. The young girls cry out and tug at my hair as I lean into motion. I don’t mind them. I shake myself free, move forward on my hands and knees. The sharp edges of things catch in the firelight and sing duty songs to me. There are other things I might be doing, there are struggles to attend to. I am blinded by the flash and glitter of them all. I lose my way.

The old woman is patient. She watches me. I want her to fetch me to her, but she will not. I must find my own way. I close my eyes, let the darkness flow back. In the darkness, I am there.

I crawl into her lap. She takes me up and cradles me, bends her head to bless me. “You are never motherless,” she says.

I gift her the pure flame of myself. She wouldn’t accept anything less.


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