Burden of Ancestry
Originally published in Wayfarer Magazine (Autumn 2019)
The fine dust pushed into the cracks of his bare feet as a young boy. The hardness of stiff grass formed callouses there. He’d fallen once, and the dust entered through a cut and his blood dried in the hot sun. He swam in the creeks within earshot and drank some of the water and it formed the blood that’d gone missing. This is how he was built, how he came to be. These small moments of the land forming an apparition for itself. Something with a voice. A steward liege. Like all else around him, that boy grew and reproduced. His young-of-the-year a descendant of the dirt at his feet, the creeks in his veins. He’d raised his boy to tend this land the way one cares for a grandmother, and the doing it gave those bones and that blood meaning. And then he watched the boy walk from it, from him, and from her. Watched him set down the burden of ancestry to search for himself. The selfishness of it like nothing he’d seen. And she wept at the loss of that boy, and the creeks grew and filled their small channels and the blood of them seeped into the dust and formed a black and suffocating mire that formed at the man’s bare feet until it reached his ankles, his knees, his heart, and his mouth.