Saturday, January 30, 2010


“The Lord God formed the man out of the dust of the earth and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” 

Genesis 2:7

Heads bowed, they walked in a line that fell and withered and moved slowly.  Only slowly.  Stones scraped at his bare feet, but he didn’t feel them; his head was bowed, too.  Silence hung thick over the procession, thick but for a thin, mangled wail that came to the back in a whisper from the mother beside the coffin.

She was in it.  She.  His only friend.  His only love.

Feet stopped.  The coffin was set down against stone, the mountain looming, glowering.  Now the wail came shrilly, loudly, and was echoed by the people.  The echo was taken up and thrown against the mountains, resounding, resounding.  

He did not wail.

It moved again, the line shuffling forward, rough tunics and leather shoes rustling toward the coffin.  Slowly, so slowly.  His eyes were closed, but the boy knew that the father had pried back the lid.  As the richly carven wood moved through the air, it moaned.  Surely it moaned--the father had opened the coffin.  

She was in it.  She.  His only friend.  His only love.

The people no longer bowed their heads.  Looking up toward the sky, past the purple of the mountain and into the grey above, they chanted.  A low, mournful chant that pressed against the mountains and reverberated, reverberated.  

He did not chant.

Though he could not see the coffin, he knew what was happening.  First the mother leaned over the coffin, her black braid long down her back.  Mouth against the mouth of the girl, her daughter in the coffin, she breathed.  A long exhalation, a breath from the living to fill the dead.

He breathed in deeply, filling his lungs, preparing.

They said that the dead were only dead here, dead in this tribal village in the mountains, but alive somewhere else.  Somewhere beyond.  They said the dead took this breath with them to the next life, and there it filled their lungs, filled their nostrils, and they weren’t dead.  Not anymore.

He was there.

Before him lay the coffin, the crude wood made beautiful with the designs carved into it.  He’d watched the men make it, stood where they couldn’t see him and watched the men take the wood and make it this--the coffin--watched them trying not to cry, to be strong.  A tear slipped down his cheek.  

She was in it.  She.  His only friend.  His only love.

His lungs were filled, painfully filled with breath.  Standing there before her coffin, he still did not believe she was dead.  Memories flitted through his mind, memories of her brown eyes and black curls, of the way her eyes shone when she laughed.  He thought of the first time he met her, after his parents died and he came to the village to his grandmother; she’d called him names and laughed at his tears.  Later she came back and gave him a red stone and held his hand. 

He loved her.  

Leaning over her face, now so still and white, he watched his tears fall against her eyelids.  Closer, closer--he pressed his lips against hers.  Breath.  All the breath of his life he breathed into her still body, emptying his lungs, filling hers.  He breathed into her their rock collection, that time they climbed to the top of the mountain, their secret laughs, the fort they’d built by the river.  He breathed into her all of his friendship and all of his love, until he had no more breath to give.

She opened her eyes. 


  1. Okay, I'm weeping. You always do that to your poor old mother.

  2. I am nominating this for "best post yet" award.