(haunted) taken out of context
by Keren Ziv

There was a time once when they said a word, and it meant her, but times change.

She remembers what it was like; it whispered and rushed and wound, and it spoke pretty, like smooth pebbles and the strength of a thousand men toiling on an ancient edifice that they were erecting. It was: Egyptians and the Nile; it became also the Incas and El Dorado. Give her the pyramids, please, for her own self (she calls again for that word, but it is hiding).

The word was fluid and flexible and brittle and strong and comforting and tiny and afraid and unable to keep still. The word was chipped into her toenails, bits and pieces, and sprinkled onto her tongue where it was a tiny little bump of its rough terrain. Funny, isn't it?

Think of the solid wood that water slices in halves and pieces. That is the way of her word. Feel in your breast swaying grasses in the meadow over which a deer flies. That is the way of her word. Remember that you heard your mother from the inside, and that is the way of her word also. It is so born into the earth that it stains her skin and hair with dusk and dark; and sometimes her senses are stained, and she's not listening to things as they were; why, that too is the way of her word.

The womb in which she is held right now neither lives nor dies but pulses with a sort of strange half-life that she cannot identify. It begins and ends and continues and becomes itself over and again, and she holds on to the walls, afraid that the stains will spring from there and fall into step with the rise and fall of her chest. She can close her eyes and see worlds, breathing, gasping, and they dance before her in the tightest of formations. (Sometimes) she stumbles in her ballet of flesh and thought.

There are ghosts walking around with her, offering pieces of themselves to be her own, but she cannot take their gifts. They throw: their mouths into strange shapes, and they fling sounds at her like knife jugglers at the circus. They: hit and stab and strike and bend and bleed her, because they have not formed her soul yet.

Occasionally (it might be that) they give her word, only it isn't, and another will look up and smile and answer; and her word is misplaced and sought after, and she repeats myself, myself, myself over and again, like she's tattooing it on her brain, like the cuts she's already got there. With the marching of her memory, this is the way her heart and lungs continue.

Their own selves send out sayings and syllables and solitudes for which she stretches out her hands to save and strangle, but they slip through her fingers like liquid, like blood and tears mixed. She gets confused (because): in the valley, death crawls over them like fleas do. The air is full of it; it lingers heavy. They are waiting for her in the valley and for any whom she can bring with her. In the valley, they whisper words to themselves like paper cuts fingers.

"It's all right, mei-mei," Simon says, and she remembers her word, all her words, and she smiles at him as his reward. She knows this: serenity, and nothing more. She is drunk of it, and the ship hums as its own being, valley be damned.

Serenity (is broken).

She catches stars with her gaze, and she thinks that maybe this is is the way to cure those who come from the valley. River counts the beats.


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