The World Within the World

What you don’t know about me couldn’t fit in a house, or your bedroom closet, or even a box. It’s fairly small: that even when I was a girl of eight, I knew that sunlight on a humidless day in spring could make the future wide as a blanket furled out by a loved one on a just changed bed, how for many years something burned in my belly that nothing could quench, how one man understood it, reached inside me, and held that small living coal and blew his sweet breath on it until I could begin to see, and when I did, I saw a man on a street corner crying. His head was in his hands, and his shoulders quaked, and when I drew near he said, you don’t see me, no one does, please, go away. It was all I could do not to embrace him, but I didn’t—people don’t do such things—I stood behind him a while and watched, my hand on my belly feeling the small hard knot of coal that no longer burned me, that had just begun to change, and what I saw left me speechless and joyful, no longer afraid, and certainly not ashamed.

Laura McCullough | Mudlark No. 32
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