Love Letter Under the Open Sun
My eyes were heavy and I could not look at the sun because it was no longer yellow like our picture books with dancing girls and boys who held hands around a world too small for people. It looked orange from where I stood and it burned when I looked up and so I did not. Orange in a white sky made my eyes heavy and since I could not look at the sun, since I could not envision my face in the clouds with purple and orange barrettes, bouncing up and down on a couch I should not have, bouncing up and down was a restless head or popsicles or sunflowers or other things the clouds never made, I stopped. I stopped but they commanded that I keep walking and I did since stopping would mean spending more than three seconds near the rotting carcasses with frozen petrified faces, the boy with the bright blue shirt who had no hand, the refugees who striped the streets and seeded the farm roads with no destination in sight but tears that fell under an open sun we walked and did not know where we were going exasperated by the heat and betrayed by nightly prayers unanswered it seemed and “where we goin’?” I asked and nowhere was their answer though it did not make sense that we were making such a fuss on a journey that was not somewhere. I stopped counting the days forgot what Momma’s voice sounded like they did not know which soldiers were good and which were rebels could not hand us punishments for our whining for fear it would be our last did not know where we were going so I cut my eyes and slowed down and “Come now, chile’, keep up,” is what Ma told me my grandmother acted as though she did not see the bodies or did not smell the blood, or did not care that I had stopped walking because it hurt to look up at the orange sun and clouds that drew nothing but rain my left shoe fell off and I wanted Ma to notice but she did not so I kicked off my right shoe and it hit her heel in front of me and she turned around but instead of picking up my shoe and demanding the entire caravan to “STOP AT ONCE” walking to this nowhere, she pulled my hand to keep up with her and “Come, ma chile, keep up” sounded like bullets against an abrasive surface of nails and sand as we strolled enveloped by men and women like disassembled lines and shapes, gone to heaven now they told us, under the open sun. They were not drums. My feet were bare and I did not tell my father because I was afraid he would not know what to say or I did not tell Wiande or Kula because I was afraid they would tell my father so I walked—with the caravan of my father and the girls and Ma and Matauma and Brother John and two pastors and a neighbour and some members of our church under an orange sun and clouds to nowhere we were walking, I was barefoot, down this dusty road of trampled bodies, and the boy with the bright blue shirt with no hand, and broken stories and pretending they all and none of them were there. Pastor Brown pointed to something approaching us in the distance—it was a tank, they said, it was a tank—and in one second my frail body was in two places, one was on the road, one was jumping over the bodies gone to heaven now—two and I was—we were off the road and my bare feet were being dragged through a muddy field and (where were my shoes) as Kula cried and I wondered what I did to the sun for it to hate me as it did and the monstrous stalks were slapped with bullets and talking leaves said run and do not look back and blood poured out of the bottom of my feet as thorns pushed their way in and running and running and running and my father was moving so fast and pulling my hand that the muddy waters were now my pool my baptism into one second past girlhood past innocence past things the clouds never made and my feet lost the ground beneath me so my knees now ran along with my father and water now ran along my face and the lace at the bottom of my dress got left somewhere behind me with my shoes and the tank and my girlhood and the shooting that did not stop but came toward me under the open orange suns and clouds that said nothing more than rain.
Possible pull quotes, if needed:
“I could not envision my face in the clouds with purple and orange barrettes”
“and in one second my frail body was in two places”