A year and a day

Shooting star across Texas Hill Country CC Ralph_Arveson

This is a a story written in the pits left by sky-fallen iron, scattered on a lonely hillside …

The landlord was late collecting his spoken rent. People thronged the old chapel waiting for him – so that the Pilgrim Woman could start her tale. It grew dim outside, and as the rich man came in, the yellow tail of a meteorite blazed across the sunset.

‘Here,’ said a cheeky-faced boy on the front row. ‘Tell us a story about a shooting star.’

‘I will – but it is not addressed to any of you. Imagine if you will, a wife softly addressing her sleeping husband.’ Many of the crowd shut their eyes, some looked down and still others gazed into some other distance. She began:

You slept on my love, and I was glad. You slept on as I put my coat about my shoulders and stepped out into night thick with insects and leaves. You slept on, as you always did not knowing that my grief called to me from between the stars.

For a twelvemonth of nights I had stepped out and you did not know. And I was glad.

For you would have followed me into the woods. You would have reasoned, been practical and caring. Your love is a kindly thing of doing something.

But my emptiness did not need that.

Your kindness was a day blessing, made of sun and air. My barrenness needed you to be content,  asleep, there. You slept on as I climbed the hill, cool ferns swiping my ankles and giving their seed to my night-dress.

You would not have believed what brought me to that place. You never paid much mind to the old stories.

And so you never got to see the shooting star. For a year, I had kept this tryst, not knowing what I needed. Strange fancies come to women like me, with wombs where life does not take. The flame passed overhead and I was broken open by the joy of it.

I ran to its landing place, hoping to bring a shard of that glory to you. You can still see the trail I battered through the undergrowth. You would have smiled to see my face gazing at what I found.

Yet you would have done the same. You would have scooped the huddled shape out of the hollow with care, feeling it warm like new milk. You would have marvelled at the soft blanket, dusted with starlight, unharmed. You would have knelt; unbelieving, curious and tender. How could a tiny hand be waving from among the cloth?

Still – you slept on. Only to awake with joy at the bundle I clutched to me, spangled with dew and tears.

‘Some wishes do come true,’ you said to me. And so you welcomed the starchild to our home. And then I knew the power within your dreams.


With thanks for encouragement from Don Conlon.

picture credit: Shooting star across Texas Hill Country CC Ralph Arveson

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