WusGood: “What’s your fav thing bout being Slytherin?”
Arla: “(My) housemates’ and instructor’s IDGAF attitudes.”
scratchy field wielding wet
heat — blank sky, brown faces snagged
near a thick gash in the dry
Earth: a creek, syrup of chemical
stench. it’s December, but swamp sweat
snakes, incremental, down walls
of the Manila hotel, curled eels
around us, and here unchaperoned in the open, tick of hours
toward their home, or something
like it — family found, my people, forgotten
stitches. inside, unseeing: empty
room for seven souls to eat and bathe
and sleep, perhaps. shushed. there’s more
behind a printed wall. what’s the opposite
of naked? cacophony of colors,
everywhere — your younger self, beloved,
evidence of your spoil. nobreathing. have you ever
seen a graveyard
of your childhood?
whisper twice, aviam ortum, in the dark, prayer
for the absent conversations shushed
out by disease and time and unchaperoned
guilt. dear grandmother, there’s a fissure
lying before us, starlit canyon of trembling
syllables unspoken. can you hear me breathing?
praise the Gods for bonds created, breathing
jagged for this spell — localibus, ama: prayer
for the almost souls who climbed, trembling
from this life before it could begin. shushed,
they leave us grasping blankly at the fissure
that remains, precious chasm still, unchaperoned.
inhale until your lungs demand unchaperoned
air, and hold this promise, barely breathing:
joyous memories do reside beneath the fissure
of forgotten family. we shout this prayer —
i await a patron, dun stallion protector, shushed
by the quiet solitude of secrets, trembling.
ask the ancestors for help to tie the trembling
fathers and their children together, unchaperoned
in the wake of their wrongdoing. here, shushed
we’ll stay and curse their steady breathing,
ignorance of the holy gift of bonds. prayer
murmured softly: percuro, heal the fissure.
drink shallow plaintive sips to mend the fissure
of split motherhood: she held you trembling,
crying and in love, lonely answer to her prayer,
decade in the making; she stayed unchaperoned
and still, for hours just to watch you breathing —
between the swigs, repeat, patawarin ko. shushed.
yield to the planetary motions that bring us, shushed,
to the brink of comprehension that a fissure
interrupted does more good than borrowed breathing.
we’ll move toward a tower, cracked and trembling
to hear these gasps: kata-la-vaino, an unchaperoned
request for understanding, a loaded, hopeful prayer.
now we rest. shushed gratitude and trembling
knowledge of our fissures wake us, unchaperoned
to the breathing loves that link us in this tender prayer.
Arla Shephard Bull writes creative nonfiction and poetry in the Pacific Northwest, while also working as a freelance reporter. Her creative nonfiction essays have appeared in Reservoir Journal and Maganda Magazine. She is a fellow of the VONA/Voices writer’s workshop for writers of color and is a University of Washington graduate. When not writing, she spends time eating with her husband, playing with her Dachshund Scottish terrier puppy and daydreaming of her next adventure.