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A Hundred Gourds 5:1 December 2015

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page 7  

Ferris Gilli - USA


Heartwood


They have been part of my life for as long as I can remember. Flossie, brightening the very air with songs handed down from her ancestors as she tends the garden; Cicero, telling fables of animals and feral children while he rests between stretches of splitting logs. They have woven their oral gifts into my budding cultural literacy.

an African melody
drifting among squash blossoms . . .
the tiger-child dreams

Cicero is the first dead person I have ever seen. My mother takes me with her to pay respects to Flossie. His open casket is in the front room, sad-eyed women standing at each end. Newspaper patches the thin, unpainted walls. Sap sizzles in the potbelly stove, and scents of baked breads and lye soap drift from the kitchen. Flossie hugs us and lifts me into her arms. She points to a place near the stove. “He sat there just two nights ago, listening to the rain.”

Before my mother can stop her, Flossie carries me to Cicero. She leans in so I can pat his hand. When my mother protests that this could give me nightmares, Flossie sighs. “No, ma’am. This child loved him, and now she’s told him goodbye.” At last realizing the finality, I soak Flossie’s blouse with my tears.

a lamp’s flame wavers
pine heartwood neatly stacked
beside a rocking chair



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