Children of the Moon, Chapter 16: Twilight Voyagers

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Laurel gazed out the window, a thin line
of love and pain cycling between memories:
Grandma Wing had died of a stroke

Uncle Joe, packing up, pointed to a box:
These are for you;
and he handed her a book; on the flyleaf
she spotted her grandmother’s name:
These all belonged to Grandma Wing?

Most of them, yes; some belonged
to her husband and some to her parents;
they’re yours now.

Aunt Ida came in from the garden:
She left us the house on the beach;
we can go there weekends and holidays;
I know you’ll love it, Laurel,
and it will be a good way to remember her.

Days later, Laurel and Mira drove to see
a renegade circus act on a ranch;
arriving at the ranch house a shiver
ran through them and they turned to one another
with expressions of horror and dismay

Mira thought of the widow, Blanca Cors
who had since moved away. Did anyone
remember? So many people had been incensed,
but now seemed to have forgotten
their frenzied rage.

Two Royal Poinciana trees were united
in one crimson canopy above a sea-green lawn,
and a private road swung up a gentle slope
where people were making their way
to a corral where men worked on a high wire

The sun was eclipsed by the earth
and all around the world was transformed
into the charred remains of an interplanetary fire

Spotlights switched on, focused on the wire
sixty feet above; there was no net:
this was pure circus, greater than reality;
and the performers were in their element,
ascending the ladder to the platform

A man walked out a few feet before turning back;
in a moment, he reappeared on a bicycle,
riding across as the crowd held its breath;
from the far side the man returned, pedaling
the bike backwards as the crowd cheered

Two men walked onto the tightrope
holding balancing poles; one kneeled
while the other stepped onto his shoulders;
as they straightened up, a gust of wind
knocked them off balance

Laurel fought to keep her balance,
feeling the drift of the universe below her feet,
as one man caught the wire with one hand,
his pole slicing into the moonless night,
and the other swung around to a sitting position

The men regained their balance
and Mira turned away to see the house
lit by spotlights, and in that instant she knew
that someone knew, more than one person knew
what had happened to Blanca Cors

At daybreak, Mira came outside
to find Solis lying on the porch,
body swollen and eyes glazed;
she saw the wound on his side:
snakebite

A young veterinarian examined him
and returned, shaking her head:
I’m sorry, he was bitten by a rattlesnake;
and Mira said: He came home to me,
and I wasn’t there to help him.

The vet told her gently:
There was probably nothing you could do;
he’s unconscious and won’t suffer.
Mira had known the danger,
but never been afraid before

Bowing her head to the hammering sun,
she sought refuge in the forest
and borderlands

Nothing was the same; birdsong faded,
pine logs rotted and leaves moldered,
the air was stifling; fear disturbed
her balance, goaded her into watchfulness
for the mistake, the flaw in the flow of life

Everything dissolved in a single moment;
she gave herself up to the absolute
sensation of standing still

But an inexorable pendulum swung
and she found herself moving again;
passing the field with its one tall pine,
she glimpsed something out of place,
drawing her into its immediate space

Her eyes fixed on the line, sodden
and sedimentary, like lava thrown
from a volcano taking on a separate life

A huge rattlesnake was sunning itself,
a long tunnel into oblivion in the solid field;
everything around it disappears into it
in pools of misery,
shocks of sorrow

The snake was wound out on the ground
in long graceful curves, but still able to strike;
its sixteen rattles reverberated in the grass

Coming closer, observing its apathy,
she saw that it was wounded,
torn along one side

Mira knew she could kill it,
but she realized there were two killers
on the field that day,
and Solis was more likely the attacker;
the snake had done no more than defend itself

She was horrified by the dual tragedy
and left the field of combat,
the hot dry baking world, the silent agony,
deep in a compassion for all
living beings that must die

A giant sun touched down, as if it would roll
across the land and engulf the world in fire;
Mira threw her belongings in a worn bag;
her aunt’s car rumbled to a stop by the porch
and Mira took flight

She held her breath:
her mother or one of her sisters or brothers
might see her and call her back;
then again, her aunt said as she climbed in,
she might not be missed.

The highway was filled with twilight voyagers,
tourists and haulers and others on the move,
spinning out a high-pitched whistle
as they broke the sound barrier
outside Mira’s motel window

She was near the airport, and could see
the earth ascend to swallow planes
without a sound, and then they reappeared
with a roar on bald runways
huge against the sky

In the moonlight, a tropical plant was glowing;
and Mira felt alone with another life,
a life going on inside her that traveled ahead,
a light throwing back a shadow
of the person she would become

Illustration by Forrest S. Clark

To read the preceding chapters, please go to the Prologue.

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