Saturday, August 20, 2011

Moving Pieces

Young man floats on a raft, face expectant, brown eyes open, scanning the rock walls surrounding the deep watering hole. He drifts, silent, chest rising a falling in steady breathing. Water laps over the sides of the raft in the rhythmic movement of current. Some yards in the distance, the water falls from this higher pool to another one way below. His raft floats in that direction.

From the images sent back from deep space, viewers could see an astronaut space-walking, tethered to a cord, drifting farther from the craft that had its hatch open like a hand that had just waved him off. Because of the angle from which the images came, the next part could not be verified: That the astronaut appears to have reached across his spacesuit to where he had clasped his tethering line and released that clasp. What could be seen was a man drifting away from the capsule and then falling from view.

A smaller gentleman, wisps of white hair and dressed in tweed, sat at the back of the empty church. He came there each morning, one of several who still sat among the pews, to watch the sunlight pour through stained glass and descend along the north wall as the sun rose from the southeast. Many people once came to this church to begin their days in this silent ritual. He sat alone today, looking up. Waiting for someone else to come.

Young girl with tiny hands wrote stories and drew sketches of roads that wound among hills. She kept these stories in sketch book after sketch book, making up tales about where her roads went and what happened to travelers along the way. She wrote throughout year after year and kept every book. In late November, a man came to clear away her apartment for a new renter. He found her books in neat rows on four shelves, most full from beginning to end, but two that she had not touched, opened to blank pages that looked out into the room, as if expecting.

From surviving settlers accounts, thugs and entrepreneurs were known to have made their brazen push, foul, eager, hopeful, crazed. Toward the west. We know that more than a thousand smaller brown people lived in the now ruined village that still exists as a low hill on the edge of flat plains. Could you close your eyes and let yourself hear language that could explain these pieces of clay, decode the pictographs on rocks some miles away? Could you see an old woman, the last, humming in a wordless tune as she throws her bundle over her shoulder and begins a long walk to a village farther on?

That’s when the silence came and the movement stopped.