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The Reckoning Season
A smudge of fall’s crescent moon glows dimly over the somnolent, smoking village; like a late moth snuffed-out, its greasy remains smeared against a dark, black pane. The deeply layered auto-da-fe of curled burnished leaves, desiccated seed heads, and shriven shriveled stalks, spark and crackle; exhausting their final, fetid breath into the reckoning season’s cool, dry ether.
The woman picks-up more cuttings, gathers them to her breast, and from extended arms releases them as a precious offering to the flames; this is her favourite time of year, when the boasts of spring’s buddings, fulfilled or denied are past and the outcome can finally be cleansed from her collapsed garden.
The reckoning season, when she stiffly stoops to retrieve the brazen windfalls, turning them over to inspect the damage the worms have wrought, revealing the deep deception behind each orb of smooth perfection; not one has escaped. She knows this tiny persistent presence they harbour, she feels it coiled at the very core of her, a hungry, niggling urgency that won’t be denied for much longer. But, much longer must wait she decides, dropping the last apple on the rounded pile by the post; she’ll feed them to the horses who hang their dumb, heavy heads over her fence each morning.
The warmth of the fire draws her back to its lucid sphere and contemplation of its hungry progress. She pulls-off the pale kid-skin gloves her mother gave her, and smiles wryly at the memory of receiving them. Much too precious for gardening she thought, but held that observation at bay; she wanted to please her mother by pretending the gift was apt; that she had finally got it right, and made one small connection to her distant daughter which the choice of the gloves should have formed.
It had made her sad then that they were, she thought, all wrong, “who would use white kid-skin gloves for gardening?”. She was wrong to confront the offering as an inept gesture, eventually discovering the tiny buttery gloves perfect for handling the canes of her climbing roses, the smooth, soft but impervious hide protected her from the pain of their vicious thorns, allowing her to finally bring their aimless, rampant growth beneath her control.
Turning them over in her warming hands, fingers sliding along the still silken length of their well-worn exterior, she recalls her mother’s hands; like hers they had perfect crescent moons and carefully rounded nails, slender fingers and tiny palms.
Not since she was a child had she held her mother’s hands, not even the last time she saw her, the tiny, seated figure, timorous and supplicant, wanting it all to end. Her diminished hearing made it necessary for her to listen to the radio at nearly full volume, incurring the nurses’ wrath; her dwindling short-term memory impelled her to inject the same recently uttered observations into conversation at regular intervals, incurring her daughter’s disdain; blindness had overtaken the sight she used to prepare dinner, phone friends, play cards, appraise her grandchildren and generally communicate with the world and feel useful in it, incurring her own despair. Each failure of her senses was a shovelful of dirt, leisurely thrown over her still-living form; one filled-up the ears, another covered the eyes, the next the mouth, the final moist and heavy load would weigh down on the chest, still the spirit and arrest the heart, alas.
Feeling the warmth of her fire abate, the woman stares down the expiring flames. She will go in now and give herself up to oblivion, to finally sleep, or hover just beyond care’s release, like flotsam floating on the rhythmic murmuring of her breath and the lapping tide beneath the bedroom window. A last billow of smoke wends its languorous way towards the village’s chuffing chimneys drawing-up ashen plumes from the longing-pyres of their deeply slumbering charges. The sooty spectre drifts out toward the slate-shingled sea, passes its ponderous shadow over the harbour narrows, then rounds the reckoning season’s moon to haunt the pale cliffs of dawn.
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