1st Place 2015 YWA Grade 8 – Mandy Chen from SWIS
Burial (tied for 1st place – Grade 8)
by Mandy Chen
The woman is muttering, she who claims my ownership. I see her lips move in slow motion, rounding into a black hole that devours. Underneath them two rows of ivory teeth gleam against her gown dark as a raven’s—her raven gown of destruction and finality. She is invisible in the dark.
I turn. Her teeth dazzle.
My eyes are a camera lens. Now its focus shifts, my camera catches no more of the blackness of her gown or the whiteness of her teeth—only the magnified maple tree behind her, solitary against the masses of green in the dimness of night. It has a hunched, wrinkly back. And from its leaves, curled and dangling on the tips of the twigs, I read history. A gust of wind whizzes by. The leaves whirl feebly down the tree. The branches open to me.
I am walking into the tree’s embrace. Then again I see the woman. She is coming my way. Without warning she pulls me into her bosom so giant I surrender my breath. She howls, the hoarse caw of a thirsty crow. Her arms coil around my waist, against the thin cloth of my dress. My skin burns in contact with the coldness of her fingers around my neck. She reeks of stale maple syrup.
“Look.” Her hot breath is in my ears. The midnight sky is thickly veiled in a gown of clouds that billow, angry clouds that surge and press down on me. Their mouths gape and grin; a combined hole threatening to swallow me. Rumbling and sizzling, the clouds descend, attempting to pin me down and shroud me in the loose, red soil beneath the maple leaves. So close now I feel the tickle of its breath. I sink to my knees. My cheek is against the wet ground, as close to grandmother as it can be. I am descending like a maple leaf. I feel myself with grandmother again as I twirl feebly, inch by inch down into the soil that is now a bog, magnetic. Thunderbolts illuminate a sky that is lacerated and torn. I glare at the clouds and see them burst like balloons, shrinking into vacancy as raven gowns give way to fast dissolving smoke.
I feel it prickle my face and tickle my nose, sting my uncurtained eyes and droop at the curls of my lashes. I see it descend from the top of the domed sky, like a thousand perpendicular needles, diving through the clouds and driving away thunderstorm. Rain penetrates my skin and washes into my veins. It slides through my closed lips and lingers on my tongue, and all the way down to put out the fire in my throat. I am full of rain.
The early morning sky has begun to disclose a faint ray of light as rain drizzles on. My senses return. The identical rain that arouses all things in spring has aroused me. I hear the rustle of the maple tree and dew dripping from leaf to leaf. I feel my hands, my feet, the aching of my eyes and my knees against the ground. I see a dozen spared leaves sway in the breeze and a hand, plump and drenched with a smell of maple syrup, outstretched before me. It is almost grandmother’s hand, only without wrinkles and paler and cleaner.
I grip the hand with the smell of maple syrup. I rise. I rise red-eyed and glazed as I kick away mud on my shoes. I shake off dust and brush away the maple leaves that shroud me. I rise from the dampness of the ground to stand face to face with the woman in black. I let the roughness of her thumb brush away rain on my cheeks. This time I hear her.
“It’s time.” She is saying. “Let’s say goodbye to grandmother.”
I watch as the last of leaves shake and fall to my feet, underneath which grandmother is sound asleep. I understand now that she will never again rise, not when I do and leave her to the loneliness of slumber. I fly my farewells to grandmother, the leaves and the thunderstorm. I no longer feel the wet entanglement of the black dress sticking to my back.
I peer at the faraway sky, where it is strange and whole, unvisited by thunderstorm. A new day’s sun has found its seat there. It is not too bright for me to look into, because now I know. The leaves have fallen, but the tree lives on. The thunderstorm is transient, but what rain endows endures.
I have left a part of me buried with grandmother. That part of me has been too heavy to withstand the washing of rain. Its absence enables me to enjoy the glossy lightness of rebirth.
Congratulations to Mandy Chen who has won a Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 from Lenovo China.