Kindness Among the Looted Bodies
The hawk as it returns to its nest, mushrooms growing in fallen leaves, trees along the lakeshore, songs of every last moment echoed, you turning sixteen and dressing your dog like a lion in the golden leaves of autumn.
Among children biking through neighborhood streets, you were lost. Men rode horses into fields to find you the autumn you disappeared to fall in what I dreamed was love.
You fell in love with the fiddle player who spoke to you through music.
In Louisiana, his ballads, ever changing as a sky before a storm, swept you into two-steps with his friends and brothers, his sisters who became your sisters, knowing the ways of folk musicians. In songs they loved each other. Their songs became a part of you, a name woven into echoes along the water after floods.
Rain changes everything in the golden light of old mansions where people aren't supposed to go unless they are invited to cook, clean, or sing for the rich. Even as a child, you understood why people like us, who had no money, danced in rain.
At night, you are lost. I dream you dancing.
I dream you falling into the fiddler’s welcoming arms.
I dream you into his music as rain falls over forests of melody.
Lyrics in his eyes, the rivers and the railyards, the paddle wheel inside you complaining about the men always asking him to play Black Betty because his sisters are tired of singing, tired of you asking why the whip in southern prisons used to torture men is a woman.
Amazing Grace was also a woman, his mother’s name, Grace, the thing that will save us from ourselves as we worry for you, attempting to understand if lost means forever.
When we found the opossum stranded in a tree after the flood, the land had become water. The fiddle player paddled his boat to the opossum and climbed the tree to help the opossum down only for you to watch in silence, then in cheering, as the opossum scrambled away from him and back up the tree.
Some stranded people are like the opossum in the tree. They don’t want to be saved, even when their world is gone; they don’t want a stranger coming to grab them from their last anchor. They hold. But some are like me, waiting for the stranger. I never knew until he sang a song about a woman who walked into the water to enter her flooded house, to find the rooms where her husband and child had drowned to be with them again. Glimpsing her face reflected in the water, the woman swam the flooded streets, knowing she could never go back.
If all bodies are looted by death, some of us have our bodies looted when we are still alive. I spent days and nights searching for you before spending years searching for your body.
The fiddler’s sisters sing about a funeral home where a lonely undertaker lovingly caresses the bodies of dead women. The necrophiliac could never caress the living, and I wonder why, why is it so hard for people to see each other and know each other when they are needing each other, why a living woman creates fear and revulsion in some men thrilled by the bodies of the dead.
I try not to think of our mother’s friend in college, the one our family keeps thinking of when they are terrified of what happened to you, imagining the girl who was beaten with a wooden log by a stranger who wanted to separate her from her body. He had no use for her body while she was still inside of it where she could see him with her eyes. A neighbor found her body, headless, because her killer had kept her head to wash and style her hair and put makeup on her face as if she were a doll. He killed her so he could have her head, which meant nothing to him until it was taken from her.
Because she’s more than a headless woman, more than a looted body, you ask the fiddler to play a song for her. He asks her name, what she was like, where she lived, what she dreamed. He asks nothing about her head or her body or her murderer, and that’s one of the reasons you fall for the fiddler. You feel her spirit soaring in his song.