“The child in each of us knows paradise. Paradise is home.” – Octavia Butler
The Other Side
On one of those heavy mornings that
always follows a night-long fit
of nightmare and anxiety
I sit in the kitchen nibbling peach pastry
I hear the wind outside knocking
branches from the tree against the house.
Suddenly, I remember the questions
which haunted my dreams. A knot tightens
between my breasts.
I pluck a piece of Danish into my mouth
when I notice the drawn tangerine-hued curtains
in the living room
palpitating like ocean waves.
Chunks of peach and frosting soak
my mouth with sugar
and I feel a heartbeat stutter
in my chest.
The curtains undrawn, I anticipate a discovery.
Perhaps an open window or a panicked trespasser –
maybe bird, maybe large bug –
But my imagination lacks courage.
On the other side
framed where the window should be
is a hillside of rolling green mounds
lush with fauna and fern.
A warm breeze kisses my cheek
bringing along scents of fresh mud and new rainfall.
Flocks of birds glide in the distance
underneath pillowy white clouds drifting past
a blushing sun.
Like a siren’s call carried by the wind
a soft voice beckons me to enter.
So I climb into the frame.
The earth is moist on my toes
each step is like walking on a new planet.
The sunlight caresses my skin with its warmth
causing a bead of sweat to roll from my brow.
The voice returns humming a playful tune
something familiar yet ancient
Like a grandmother singing at dawn.
I go chasing the voice
down hills, over rocky outcrops, across ravines
I stumble, fall, crawl, and walk
until I reach a clearing in the brush.
I see a village speckled with life:
An old man sits on a chair outside a small house
smacking on a papaya with toothless gums
his smile reaches a passing woman who nods at him
as she rubs her pregnant belly
a small dog trails her closely,
its tongue hanging from the side of its mouth
the dog barks at a hopping rooster
being chased by three little children
the children’s bare feet pound the dirt
causing plumes of dust to roll through the air
their laughter distracts a girl
working with a man on the roof of a house
her eyes gaze at the playing children and
the man smacks her head with a cloth
he smirks when receiving her attention
and starts working again
a woman sits just below them playing a flute
while an old woman sways to the rhythm
as she weaves a basket
she gets up from her seat and
walks over to a nearby tree
and brings a banana to
two boys fighting over a mango
the boys break the banana in half
and share the mango
they wave at someone in the field
at the end of the village
a man waves back and wipes his forehead
before taking a sip from a bowl
he chuckles and begins talking
to the others in the field
other men, women, children
all of them pulling, pushing, digging
A butterfly lands on my nose and breaks my gaze.
I curl my lip, blowing to get it to fly away.
My eyes follow the butterfly as it rises in the sky
joining a swarm of its kind
and they float over the village.
Birdsong hums over the cacophony of
activity from the people.
Together it sounds like the ocean
always flowing, always ebbing, always changing.
A woman steps in a clearing between houses
and looks my way. She wipes her hands on
the apron around her waist
waves me over
smiling a warm and safe grin.
I feel something unravel deep in my chest
the looseness a profound comfort
washing over my body.
I look down at my muddy feet
then look back up to the woman.
I take one step towards her
and then one more.
Sunlight beams on my face
through passing clouds
causing me to blink a grimace.
When I open my eyes
I’m back in my kitchen
pastry half finished
coffee a slough of grains.
I look around the room
get up and open the curtains.
Outside the window my neighbor
takes their trash can to the curb.
a school bus passes by
its brakes squeaking
as it nears the stop sign.
I sit back down at the kitchen table
I place my hand over my chest.
There is another place for me,
somewhere inside me there is
the other side.
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