Old and Young, I Dance

When my bones were new and my soul already old, my laundromat was a river. On Saturdays, we scrubbed grime from fabric until fingers bled clean. We smacked tough stains against stones, laid our garbs to be kissed by the sun, while the river cleansed fatigue and sweat from our flesh.

When my thoughts were young and my mind still old, the river was Gaia’s milk, her tears, her blood. On the Winter Solstice, we sat on the west side of the riverbank with the dying Sun… We faced east, waiting for the Sun to be reborn. From across the river, sunlight kissed treetops and skin.

I am far away from my river, my laundromat, her milk, her tears, her blood. My bones and thoughts are nearly as old as my soul. The Sun still dies and will again be reborn. On the Winter Solstice, I stand on the west side of my terrace with the dying Sun… I face east, waiting for the Sun to be reborn. From across the street, sunlight kisses treetops and skin. Shiny eyes soak in the new warmth, breathe in the world, smile, and close—I am dancing by the riverbank… I’m young, I am old, I’m young…

in the dark,
winter births the sun
and all life

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Stories of Yamasá, 4 (for more tales of Yamasá, follow the link to my Web Serials page).
The Twiglet #3 (“from across the room”)
Imaginary Garden with Real Toads, Tuesday Platform
* If you are here for The Twiglet or The Garden, then you are already done. If not, read on…
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Tomorrow, the Northern Hemisphere welcomes the Winter Solstice. Yep, my Wicked Luvs, the baby Sun (a bunch of fantastic people) and I will be celebrating the shortest day of the year. Well, I’m actually celebrating that the days will get longer (but don’t you tell the dark I said that… I’ve heard Lady Darkness can hold a grudge). Anyhoo, I always welcome the reborn Sun with something yellow and yummy—usually an orange. But it’s freaking cold outside. So this year, I’m opting for soup.

Roasted Kabocha Soup

Ingredients:
– 1½ cups of roasted kabocha squash, cubed
– 1½ cups of water
– 1 teaspoon of coconut oil
– 2 tablespoons of pecans, crushed and roasted
– Ground cumin, dill, salt

Preparation (about 45 minutes/239 calories):
– Preheat oven to 375°F. Coat the kabocha with the coconut oil, place on a baking sheet (lined with parchment or foil). Bake until the squash is a bit browned and soft (about 28 minutes). Let the squash cool a bit, then remove the peel from the flesh. Set the (yummy crunchy) peel aside.

Add the water, cumin, dill and salt to saucepan. When it comes to a boil, add the squash. Simmer on low for 5 minutes or so. Let it cool for a bit, blend, and yum-yum!
Roasted Kabocha Squash Soup

While the squash cools a bit, chop the peel and mix with the pecan. It makes a delicious snack.
Kabocha Squash Peel and Pecans

Or, if you are feeling wild—I often do—add the mix to the soup.
Roasted Kabocha Soup with Pecan

Happiest Winter Solstice, my Luvs.

Are You Awake?

My mother and my uncle’s wife pretended to like each other. But they were so terrible at hiding their mutual loathing, that I never understood why they didn’t stop the farce and tell each other to go to hell. Or, at least, they should’ve had the decency to slap each other around until their ill-camouflaged glares bled some meaning into the world.

We traveled to the city to visit with my aunt and uncle every year. I had a love-hate relationship with the trip. My uncle was a fun military man, who always had a story for me. I was in awe of him and his white uniform. But his wife annoyed me. I wasn’t crazy about the fact that she would make my mother and I sleep on a plastic-covered couch in the living room. I wouldn’t have minded the floor. But she always said that she was afraid that “the kid would pee” on her carpet. The kid was almost a prepubescent!

The last time we visited my aunt and uncle was a somber affair for almost everyone involved. Except for me, I was a bundle of jolliness—my uncle was in the hospital, so I would get to spend some time with him without having to sleep on his wife’s horrid couch.

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All the happiness was ripped out of my heart, when we got to the hospital and a doctor told me that I could not stand too close to my uncle. “He is very sick,” she said to my mother. “And her allergies,” I had a skin disease that blessed me with a childhood covered in oozing sores… I have no idea why they called it allergies, “her allergies make her vulnerable.”

“But… can I talk to him?” I began to cry. Not because of what the doctor said, but because my mother was trying to hide sobs behind her hands—few things are scarier to a kid than the sight of a grown up crying. “He’s supposed to tell me about the time he ate his boots.” All of my uncle’s stories were like that.

“You can speak to him from the side of the bed, okay?” The doctor squeezed my shoulder. I looked at the floor and bit my lip, so that she wouldn’t notice that she had just touched a particularly angry sore.

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In front of my uncle’s hospital room, my mother helped me put on gloves and a facemask. “Don’t bother him,” she told me. “He can’t talk too much. You’ll say goodbye and wait for me outside.”

I didn’t say anything, just followed her into the room, and almost retched when the hot and thick scent of decay ripped through my nose and gut.

My uncle’s wife sat in a metal chair by the door, her arms crossed, her eyes red. She stood up to kiss my mother on the cheek. They began a whispered argument, and I walked closer to my uncle’s tiny bed.

His face was yellowish and swollen. “Tío?” I said, but his eyes remained closed as tightly as his cracked lips. I leaned on the mattress, and whispered a little louder, “Tío, are you awake?”

I’m not exactly sure what happened next. But my mother was dragging me out of the room. I couldn’t breathe. And my breakfast had hurled itself from my stomach to the front of my dress.

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The bus trip home was a confused dream, a nightmare that wouldn’t be fooled by open eyes. I didn’t talk to my mother. She hadn’t spoken to me when she helped clean my dress. But through the stink-soaked veil of my nightmare world, my ears heard my mother tell another passenger about maggots eating my uncle’s back, and about how “The bitch that tricked him into marrying her was to blame for the rot.”

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the wee notes…
Stories of Yamasá, 3: to read other stories in this series, visit my Web Serials page (and scroll down).
– I’m almost sure that this was one of the experiences that nudged me towards joining the military—I really wanted to know what sort of circumstances could make a girl eat her own boots.
– Linked to Prompt Nights: “To travel is to take a journey into Yourself,” Sanaa said. “Life is a long road on a short journey during which we gather a bundle of good and bad” that can “break us or make us stronger. In the end it’s we who decide the outcome, and let the wings of fate take us where they may.”

My Colorful Dream, by Magaly Ohika“My Colorful Dream”, by Magaly Ohika
(find more of her wonderful work on her Etsy shop: The Itsy Bitsy Spill)

Unbaptized Imp

Have you ever analyzed the cuss words, phrases and insults that come out of people’s mouths? They often make no sense. Take a favorite from my mother’s arsenal as an example (at least while I was growing up, in the Dominican Republic): rigión sin bautizar or unbaptized imp.

I recall the first time I noticed the nonsensical nature of such phraseology. I was seven or eight. It had been raining all day, and the nearly black sky threatened to continue weeping over the land forever. My mother’s nerves were on edge. We had just planted cassava, and the rain was sure to ruin the work. I used my mother’s temporary distraction to drown her cigarettes.

You see, my Wicked Luvs, our roof was made of zinc—long lasting, fantastic for enjoying the chant of the rain, but… after a decade or two of Caribbean weather, tiny holes would start to rust through the metal. One of the holes dripped right next to my mother’s bed. Whenever it rained, we placed a bucket under the hole to keep rainwater from puddling on the floor.

While my mother was busy shouting at the radio, for failing to properly forecast the weather, I sneaked into the bedroom and dropped her cigarettes into the half full bucket. The damn box wouldn’t sink. I would not touch the nasty thing, so I pushed it down with a stick I used for sword fighting. My mother caught me holding her cigarettes under water with my stick.

“What are you…?” my mother started, her eyes on my stick and the bucket. I took a step back, and the cigarette carton bobbed to the surface. “You, rigión sin bautizar!” She reached for my arm, but I was out of the room and running out of the house before she could lay a finger on me.

I walked to a neighbor’s house. Since I was one of the only people in our village who liked this particular neighbor, she always welcomed me into her home. Most people were afraid of her eccentric ways—called her witch—and avoided her place. She had been making candles, but she stopped to get me a towel and to make some hot chocolate with star anise and butter.

My neighbor resumed her candle making. I sat on a rocking chair, wrapped in a towel, sipping chocolate. The sound of the rocker, the rain kissing the roof, the buttery taste of chocolate, and the scent of warm wax put me in a pensive mood. I started wondering about my mother’s verbal scolding philosophy. I remember thinking, Why would an imp want to be baptized?

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a wee note…
Stories of Yamasá, 2: to read other stories in this series, visit my Web Serials page (and scroll down).
– “Rigión sin bautizar” (or unbaptized imp): I’m not quite sure where the word rigión comes from. Logic points towards “region” (or región, in Spanish), which explains close to nothing… In the phrase, rigión refers to a mischievous imp or demon. My mother would hurl the words at my back, whenever I acted like a nightmare in her eyes… and probably in the eyes of several others… since I was a bit of a one-girl-riot while growing up.

Zinc Roof