Staring at an unfamiliar image in a mirror, she no longer recognized her reflection. Deep wrinkles creating a widespread and complex map of time. Once journeyed heartrending pathways creating deep etches in her skin like an unearthed and yet once known cavern, which yearned for discovery, love, and peace.
Her diminishing and twisted leathered skin provided glimpses into her life’s side roads, by roads, upside-down roads and all wretched days gone by. No aspect of her delicate and unclaimed youth could have remained, for so long ago gone, was the bright and animated twinkle in her eyes.
Elongated creases whispered a narration of a story of years depleted.
Deep-seated was the line fixed between her stares and discernments.
Now permanent was the puckered brow that her vowed marriage,
drove into her once stunning, well-defined and proudful face.
As harsh existence and the loss of her first two babies by starvation,
unlocked a hidden entrance to younger women who slowly wandered in.
As with most families, they had come before and would come again.
In Haiti, this was the way of love, and sadly for her joining, it was how it had always been.
Aged hands folded now summoning a collection of burns and scars,
a branding of arms from years of cooking over handmade hot coal fires.
Their small, dirt-floor hut with its grassy roof and goats revealing,
slim bodies and dried up saggy teats, whose freedom she so envied. As they freely roamed the lands unencumbered by humans or the mundane life which was her existence.
She was looking now to the distant stars to silence her hunger pains in the wonder and beauty of the night sky. In this quiet time, her lifeless gaze was her plea for mercy and everlasting hope. Awake yet always dreaming, for it was long ago the mysterious twinkle had lost the battle to the blank stare. No one saw aspiration in her clouded wounded eyes for No longer was it there.
Thirty years ago, a handsome man asked her father for her youthful hand, an engagement, a vow had been made and one she had kept.
Grandchildren would be her maids of honor as she took that long walk,
along beside her man to the small village church where she would now marry. Finally, money had been saved to buy the expensive and required license along with food and other required parts of her families traditions.
No tears came at this moment for like the wood turned to coal, so dried,
was her heart. She bore the pains of lost children, and starvation, as she took now to his side.
Forced was the smile as her friends sat around to eat food at their hut.
Her borrowed white attire now brown from dragging in the dusty, lifeless dirt, of their deforested earth.
The kissing of cheeks and gifts of love passed in adoration to her hands,
Champagne, rice, fried plantains, so much food gratefully brought by other well meaning grandmas.
A lifetime too late, for death haunts and occupies my sleeping hours, for I am tired and old, she thought as she watched the young ones dance with colored headdress and bare feet.
As she looked around at dancing colors bright, songs filled the air with drum beats and celebration of a lifetime of survival. Then to her surprise suddenly, her husband’s hand covered hers as he kissed her leathered skin softly and smiled deep into her eyes. For a fleeting instant back was the heartbeat of life as she jumped to her feet and danced around the fire uniting their family ties.
The sky was a blaze with thousands of shining stars, and distant wild dogs barked as sparks from the lively fire danced in tune to the music in the background amongst the mud huts of their forgotten Haitian village.
by Joni Sept. 2019