Returning – Laura Tohe

I’ve been somewhere. My mind struggles to remember the cornfields and fruit trees blooming like a young woman’s body and the place where my brothers built the shade house for our sister’s marriage beneath the slender moon where my mother wove her last blanket.

I’ve walked this empty road before in the month of the big harvest when The People left the canyon with wagons loaded with peaches and corn to take to relatives and to trade with our neighbors who live on the high windy mesas.

I am returning to the red rocks that once cradled us and from whose arms we were torn when death marched in, surrounded us, and slaughtered everything that we loved.

I am the kidnapped one and survived to escape the enemy who feared our graceful lives because we know that Beauty cannot be captured with words or jails.

I hold nothing in my hands except the lines that tell my fate. I long for the comfort of my mother’s stories, cooking, anything. How she roasted mutton ribs crispy and salty. Her stories of my Amazon grandmothers who claimed and discarded husbands like ashes.

Dust clouds billow beneath my bare feet. The ground feels familiar, and I walk easily on the sand that flows from the mouth of the canyon. A crow glides a new pattern in the wake of grief’s echoes.

Thick black ants watch Earth-Surface child return. “Ahhh,” they say, “leave this one alone; she is returning from that place.