The Women Decided They Were Leaving

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For Lara

The women decided they were leaving. They packed up all the poppies, bound the white and red petals tightly into their skirts, and they wrapped the hatchets in strips of wet leather so the blades wouldn’t cut as they swung against their thighs. They woke up early, before the cattle began their morning lamentation, and rustled their way quietly through the tents and leaf curtains that held the men and the children and the broken crockery inside, and kept the night-time outside. The night was not looked kindly upon in this part of the plains, not even by the men. The night was for the dead to walk through. The night was for the speakers of Ugric and Sanskrit. The night was not safe. The coldness that sharpened the air lacerated their faces, but they held their heads up in the air. The darkness that blackened their lips further hooded their eyes, but they looked ahead into the night. The women formed a line, and barefooted, they padded their way over the dead ashes of yesterday’s fire, staining their soles with charcoal and hardened pig fat, and whispers began to spin around the stumbling knees as the women bent double, to duck beneath the fences, to attempt to see the soil. The woman at the front of the escaping congregation wore a series of silver bangles, hung heavy with pewter bells and tiny cymbals. Tonight, each chime was wrapped tightly with frayed pieces of torn felt, and they rung a testing silence into the sky as they struck each other.

Their henna stained ankles tore their way through the gardens that had grown slowly with their grandmothers, and their pace began to increase. Breathing collectively grew more ragged and rapid as the ivy was uprooted around toes, exposing the generations-old rosemary that lurked delicately beneath. Hands grasped at nasturtiums that gathered at the bases of the settlement’s boundaries, and the petals joined those of the poppies in the folds of the women’s skirts, and muddied hands filled pockets with flowers of all flavours as ash stained thighs vaulted the embankment build by the founders of the homestead. The women broke into a run, just as the sun threw shards of light along the edge of the world. 

The women decided they were leaving, and their feet carved and irrigated the ground behind the fence.

The men awoke to silence, and hunger, and clouds of dust kicked up by heels.

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About Benjamin Norris

Published writer of short stories, long stories, poems. Well received art critic and cultural commentator for Berlin magazines. Collaborator with operatic societies. Co-writer of fictional historic psycholinguistic journals. Lecturer of architecture and art history at a Budapest University. View all posts by Benjamin Norris

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