Thursday, March 24, 2016

desert soul

It's cold here, huddled under the deep night sky. I came here willingly, in the spring, when the desert wasn't quite so daunting. I came when You asked, dragging a wagon full of hopes after me, their flames safely shielded inside lanterns of glass. But one by one they flickered out, as the flowers of spring shriveled in blistering summer, their fires too weak to begin with, too little fuel to sustain them. Now, in the dry bitterness of autumn, all but one of the flames has gone-- and that one, I cup close in my hands, my eyes fixed on it, my body bent over it, my mind absorbed with protecting it. It is all I have, in this place of cold and thirst and long wakeful nights. And I think it can sustain me for a very long time.

But now I hear You, footsteps quiet behind me, and I think I hear You speak in a low strong voice.

Give it to Me. I blink past the flicker in my palms, but I can't quite see You after my eyes have focused so very close for so very long on the blazing heart of my tiny flame.

Give it to Me. I feel Your whisper tug at me like a gentle breeze, and I hunch closer to the weak fire, trembling in my hands, coaxing just a little more heat from its burning. The wind whistles around me and I shrink smaller, shivering.

Give it to Me. You have promised me this-- how could You ask for it back now, when I need it most? How could You take from me my only source of comfort? How could You take back the promise in my darkest night?
But even in the silence, I hear Your whisper echoing, and even as I resist I begin to realize that my world has become so very small since I cupped this flame to my heart.

My God is an oath, yes-- but is that real enough to me that I will give back this one small thing as You ask?

You are asking, and You are crouched in front of me, hands cupped and waiting. And as You put out your hands to me, I open my own cupped palms and watch the flame slip soft into Your hold. You pause, holding Your hand out flat, and for a moment the firelight plays over You and I see all the crags and valleys and paths of Your face in vivid detail.
Then the flame is gone-- blown out or hidden, I don't know. But in the startling merciless black cold, I don't even have time to shiver before I feel Your hands on my shoulders and feel You breathe in my ear.

Stars, darling. I've forgotten what stars in the desert look like. I've forgotten as I stared at my own little flame.

Stars, darling. Your hands are gentle as you hold me. I close my eyes and hear the silence of the desert and I wonder what the world looks like without my small flame.

Stars, darling. I breath in deep, open my eyes. Your hands still rest on my shoulders. I turn my face to the sky and the wind is swept from my lungs as I see, for the first night in so many-- blindingly bright, achingly clear--


Stars, darling.

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