1. When plantain ripened, when there was gold to gather from above, tribal people joined cane to make rafts. A whole family, their whole harvest, rode the river to town. At the end of a trip, they let their vessel wash on. They tied, trusted, then left the twine and cuttings. There was nothing they had to carry back on the walk upstream. What motion might such boatmen have made when the last plantain was unloaded? Just an opening of the palm that held the rope, or a shoving away? May the practice of the pose of release ease their loss now. Dams are stopping their river and their language is drying in the mouths of the last speakers. Can I hope that when they let go it was with a gesture towards endlessness? May I suggest that they built with abundant materials and can build again? 2. I can’t claim to understand the end of a culture just because there is a house I loved I no longer live in. The particulars I miss are so slight (and so, I have felt, irreplaceable). But I know that any travel away from where one has been, however small, scrapes a kind of bottom. Trying to ease passage— that’s why Americans dynamite our own rivers. Tourists boat where I live now, floating on the cushions of rafts, heavy with gear and worry. So I can’t address larger sufferings. How about, then, compassion, for them, for what seems foreign in my own country? I’ll say it’s touching—the tourists—how they work at saving their own way of life, with first aid kits, food on ice, folding chairs. When I moved, I too wanted to keep everything dear with me. We don’t know what to do for others. But care is what loads overlarge packs. We fasten lifejackets on dogs. Even in slight rapids, we hold the body in reach, the one child, tight.
Rose McLarney | Imminent Domain Contents | Mudlark No. 51 (2013)