A raven struts outside the old church.  Moss encroaches on the brick wall, the engraving “MDCCCLXI” barely visible through the soft green tufts.  The raven doesn’t seem at all concerned that I am here; he doesn’t move any faster as I approach.  He does not flutter.

 

ra · ven¹

/’rāvən/

noun

  1. a large heavily built crow with mainly black plumage, feeding chiefly on carrion.
  2. Corvus.

 

A constellation.

 

Orion in the night sky.  I spread out a blanket on the back lawn--the patchwork quilt that my grandma stitched the month before I was born.  She put little pieces of my momma’s baby blanket in the quilt.  Used pink thread to embroider my name.  I rub the corner of the quilt between my fingers as I gaze up at the stars.  The three bright stars in Orion’s belt are the ones I can pick out easily.  He aims his bow at a shooting star.

 

But hunters don’t travel at night.

 

At least not in this town.

 

Girls are preyed upon in the daylight.  Like that one who popped into the tavern during lunch-time.  Her high-waisted black shorts with the slick patent-leather belt weren’t like the ones the girls wear around here, and her eyeliner was done too thick.  She sat down at the bar and ordered a raspberry soda, and then she got to talking to the guy we know as Tom.  He’s the kinda guy you can’t tell if he’s 19 or 33.  Anyway, he paid for her soda and his beer, and they waltzed out of the tavern, his hand on the small of her back, one finger hooked in her belt loop.  They left in his truck, the one with the taillight all smashed out.  And we ain’t never seen her again--just heard stories.

 

My mother always read me bedtime stories.  I didn’t like the ones that had princesses in them. 

 

There was a Princess long ago,

long ago. . .

One day a fairy waved her wand,

yes she waved her wand. . .

The Princess slept for a hundred years,

a hundred years. . .

A great big Forest grew around,

grew around. . .

A gallant Prince came riding by,

riding by. . .

He took his sword and cut it down,

cut it down. . .

The happy pair were married then,

married then. . .

 

So everybody’s happy now. . .

 

I looked like a princess in that picture, the one my godmother took at my first Holy Communion.  My mother sewed that dress for me and put the best lace she could find around the edges of my veil.  She painted my fingernails with frosty polish, a little secret under my gloves.  A pearl rosary intertwined through my clasped hands.  You drop the photograph of me in my white Communion dress—shards of glass now framing your feet on the floor.

 

“Holy Mary, Mother of God,

pray for us sinners,

now and at the hour of our death.”

 

In the local paper, I see a picture of Maria. . . remember? that one who moved to New York a few years back.  Right after her daddy got sent away.  She is smiling, her black hair glossy, and there’s a twinkle in her eye, kinda like all people have when their picture’s in the paper, but this one looks really genuine, ya know?

 

A child is screaming

in the shopping center parking lot.

 

90 decibels,

but apparently

that sound seems 32 times as loud

to the human ear.

Researchers say that 8 hours of exposure

to such noise

can damage one’s

hearing.

 

Eight hours = one work day.

 

It took Daddy and his friend from town

two days to put up the soundproof walls

in the basement.

I didn’t like the way his friend looked at me.

Daddy used to say to me and my sister,

“You’se kids are too noisy.”

He said he needed space to think.

 

I think a lot.  Amen.

 

Princesses screaming stories about hunters

                                                                                    while the raven struts outside the old church.

 


CHRISTINE TAYLOR