Prologue Broken Wings
BROKEN WINGS – by CLARISSA SMITH
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Prologue – Standing here on the marshland looking down in the empty cellar hole, where our tiny house once stood, I’m filled with longing, with sorrow, with yearning for a way of life that was and is no longer. I think about my mother, my father, both gone now. I think about my siblings, all of them like rungs on a ladder, the legacy my mother left me upon her dying bed. Racked with pain and misery, her voice, haunts me still, as she struggled with some inner god to give her strength to guide me one last time before she left this world for good. The torment in her eyes, the naked misery on her face, her broken spirit, will never leave me. Only she and I knew the extent of her suffering. Sometimes, I doubt if God even cared. I hear her voice, still; “guard dem yongsters wit yer life, my maid, guard dem yongsters wit yer life! __Gawd go wit youse now___dont ever fergit me!”
To forget my mother would be that I no longer exist. She is the reason for me being here, the reason why I keep coming back to this painful place. She’s the reason why I can’t let go. yet, I know I must break this bond of suffering that holds me in its grip still, frozen in time, after all those years. Its been a long struggle, dealing with the lost of her__and them, especially them. The long cold winter nights, following her death, the empty cupboard and the empty wood bin, hunger, desperation has taken its toll on all of us. Even though we have all survived, those of us who remember, are all emotionally handicapped still, individually broken, like ships caught in a tempest with no safe port to go to. Being the oldest daughter, it was my responsibility to carry on in her place, to protect them, to feed them, to comfort them, to clothe them. Half woman, half child, as she laid there upon her dying bed, gasping for breath, her eyes besieging mine, I promised, I promised her to protect them against all odds. I made that promise while my father sat dozing upright in the chair nearby, with haloed wreaths of cigar smoke circling around his head I made that futile promise to my dying mother, even though I knew without a miracle from God, I couldn’t keep.
Nothing remains of our house any more, nothing to show that it had ever existed except for a slight indentation in the ground, like her sunken grave. Yet, it stands before me still, with lime-washed shingles, and two small windows in the peak facing the village in one direction and the marshland in the other. It stood apart from the other eight houses hemmed in a semi-circle along the banks below Labb’s Hill. Here on the marshland, above highwater mark it sat, unsheltered by the strong gusty winds funneling down through Western Gulch and Komatick Path.
Woodpiles, scrawny sticks of young birch, juniper and fir, leaned inward like Indian tee-pees near the sawhorse and chopping block, drying in the late Autumn wind. A small wooden bridge spanned the muddy water run-off rushing pass the entrance to the porch. My mother stands in the doorway, in her wedge heel shoes, her crisp white apron and thick brown hair tied back with yellow ribbon, shaking crumbs from the tablecloth. Loud and clear, I hear her shrilly voice, “stop yer dallying bout–urry hup n git dem beds made, my maid, I dont hab aw day!” She knew then as I know now that none of us has all day. So, I must stop my dallying about just as she commanded, and say what I must say before I too am nothing more than a voice on the wind and a mere indentation in the ground.
The youngsters plays near the chopping block, laughing, shouting, crying. I see them in the stream, chasing after tiny boats, pieces of scrap wood with flour bag sails, carried along by the rushing water en route to the land-wash. I see them sloshing through the black mud filling their red rubber boots, I see them, little children chasing simple dreams, not knowing or caring where their destiny lies. The boggy smell of the marshland, the clam bar, the eerie sound of the wind, and Norse Brook Falls__roaring, gushing water spilling down the gorge to the rocks below, its as if time had stood still. The footpath, the stream, the wooden bridge, my mother, stands so vividly inside my mind, all gone now, except the agonizing memories, their voices and hers all mingled together, warms me and chills me, voices, pictures inside my tormented mind. With the familiar sights and sounds comes a longing, stabbing at my heart for things that use to be and can never be again. I can no longer hide in that safe place inside my mind, when I was a little girl sitting on the snowbank on a clear crisp afternoon waiting for my daddy to come home. I can no longer carry the burden of her death nor deny that perhaps it would have been better if we would have all died with her, then, none of us wouldn’t have gone through so much pain and misery just to have this privilege to live upon God’s great earth. Its little consolation now knowing that perhaps her death have spared those other unwanted, unborn children similar fates that have befallen them–and me. I’m an adult now, with children of my own, yet, I’m still an angry battered child, trying desperately to reason why we were forgotten and abandoned like rats on a sinking ship.