As Beautiful as Fish in a Dream
by Shannon Joyce Prince
in issue 274.
|part 3 of 4|
Rain at that time was not your way of purging yourself of the dust of living, it was holy silver-blue fingers that reached down full of longing to be a part of the humanness that had awoken on earth. And man and woman, new to the world, whirled out into it, arms spread like the owl’s wing before love, ducking and rising, laughing brother/sister style amongst the water.
Rain as divine intersection, an intrusion of the sky world onto the earth, they welcomed it as people now welcome angels, not because there aren’t humans with equal grace, but because angels are from that other world and bear that alien glory. Man as rain, then woman as ochre and seal colored clay, they held each other and turned round and round on the ground, and the next time the woman turned and sang out and arched and rocked it was because something in her was trying to be.
Their daughter had no name; it was not that time yet. Names imply distance, absence ... This daughter who had no name is all of our daughters when we look with atavistic amazement at their births, with awe dispersed across the generations.
I wish you could see that child then, first crowned by her parents with azaleas, later when her black hair was long and kinky, interwoven also with green vines. The dimples in her cheeks were not known to be dimples then, her “smiling holes,” “her kissing spots,” breasts and menstrual blood of no consequence, warning nothing.
Watch her sit, that girl with no name, quiet between the parents she had surprised with her conception. Was she beautiful? Was there even space in the rhetoric of that time for beauty? Her parents took delight in her, ignorant of what else she could be, so it’s not like there was any spectrum, and then, what is beauty without function? without reason?
Her parents thought the three of them would sit at night on that beach forever. The new man and the new woman never knew one day their bodies would fall, still, to the ground, and they never thought that their daughter could ever be for anyone else, never thought of the body as promise, so why speak of beauty? I think we would find her beautiful, but we have another gaze, we come from the theatre of vows and longing, dowries and dance, we are aware of Eros as a possibility, so beauty is no longer innocent or devoid of consequence.
Life is not like that now. When a butterfly gorges itself on the green, than sequesters itself in silk, and finally exposes its prismatic scales to the light, it knows why. Nobody is like that girl ignorant of why the moon tugged on her uterus, breasts unsheathed and caressed by the voice of the ocean as it hushed and hissed to the whales in its depths, somebody so prepared for a love she never knew she would be given. No one, today, is that lovely for no reason at all.
In memory, everything that happened on the day I shall conjure next becomes poignant. The sun was so close, apocalyptic low, it crouched over the home of the new man and woman like a mother beast. It sent its light into the chinks of their wooden walls as if to patch the empty spaces with splendor, cradling the family with invalid-worthy benevolence.
The sun was like banyan, trying to nail the people in white-hot safety or perhaps anchor them against what was to come, and when the sun saw it could not, it tried to swathe the intruder in blessed gold, make his entrance bearable by the magnificence of the light that surrounded him.
When the beautiful young man arrived in the doorway, it looked as though some cosmic war weapon, perhaps the odd-behaving sun, had beamed and blasted everything from his eyes but their wistfulness. And in his hands, light and turquoise water indivisible hovering in what approximated the bounds of a sphere, tenderly held out as a tribute to the girl with no name. And inside was a fish of so many colors and transcribed with so many patterns, it was as beautiful as the fish in a dream.
With the immediacy that recognition strips illusion, the man and the woman were divested of their newness. Their skin folded and their hair grayed suddenly like a trick of the overwhelming light. Patriarch and crone, they knew everything — they lost their surprise at the feasibility of the existence of other folk on earth, the ramifications of beauty.
Yet how could the dark-eyed young man have soared about the world like a merlin, staring through the trees for their gracile child? Man as rain, woman as ochre and seal colored clay, that was the moment they knew everything, as the father-forged mother-made floral headdress fell to one shoulder and then to the ground.
Man as rain, woman as earth, we make that metaphor forever, as the girl with no name went to the stranger without fear, and from them came an oceanic blue light awesome and terrible, at one blinding and illuminating, so much so the man and woman could not even comprehend it. Ask the sun how it was when its gilt became black as wet tree bark in face of that glow. It remembers.
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Copyright © 2008 by Shannon Joyce Prince