Saturday, January 23, 2010

Challenge 2: Plant

Go to sleep, baby. Dream about your mother, out in the fields digging, planting. Dream about the late morning sun beating down on her back as she bends and stretches and sweat stains the armpits of her green blouse. Dream about the skirts hiked up to her knees, about flies and mosquitoes and the dust powdering her feet; dream about the trickles of water through the little culverts she’s so painstakingly dug.

Give your mother a smile before she puts you down on the straw mat inside the cool walls of the house and sets your sister to watch you and takes up the splintery wooden handle of her old hoe. Watch your sister frowning, wandering around the house, sweeping the floor; watch her light the fire and make the morning bread, burn her fingers, cry. Cry too. Forget about it when she picks you up - make happy noises instead. Make her smile.

Go to sleep, baby. Dream about your sister chasing the mosquitoes away from your face, feeding the cow, overcooking the lentils. Dream about the shawl she drapes over your little cradle so you won't get bitten. Dream about the wind rioting through the house, the dark clouds rushing to you. Let the burst of thunder wake you - cry again. See your mother running back in the heavy rainfall with her shawl over her head, see her struggling with the hoe.

Grow up; follow your sister. Let your mother stay at home and sweep the floor, light a fire to make the bread, feed the cow, cook the lentils just right. Follow your sister into the fields - follow your sister with her sweat-stained second-hand green blouse and her skirt hiked up to her knees and the flies and mosquitoes and the dust powdering her feet. Watch her recalling memories from before you were born. Watch her remembering days in the field with your mother. Watch her remembering how to dig culverts and furrows and plant seeds. Learn from her.

Try to find her a husband. Cry when she finds her own and leaves to sweep his floor and light a fire to make his bread, to feed his cow, to cook his lentils just right. Take up the hoe with the splintery handle - wonder how to fix the blade back on. Fix it with who-knows-what and a thousand prayers to keep it there. Greet your sister and her husband when they visit; wonder how you’ll feed them. Take the corn they give you; think of them as you eat it.

Chase the mosquitos away from your mother's face. Slap them and get itchy hands. Learn to sweep the floor, overcook the lentils and burn your fingers making bread. Buy a mosquito net with the money you borrowed from the moneylender. Sell the cow. Tell the moneylender you’ll need an extension on the loan.

Bury your mother. Set the light to her funeral pyre; cry.
Word count: 490


  1. This is so soothing. I love the repitition and the lentils and the burnt fingers and and mosquitos. I could see it performed as a monologue by a narrator of sorts over a new baby's crib.

  2. Mmm I know, this was one of my favourites of Iconoclast's stuff so far :D Has such a beautiful circle to it!

  3. I'm impressed that something that is effectively a series of imperatives manages to be almost a lullaby, too.