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Talking with Ghosts in My Mother’s Kitchen

Excerpt from Talking with Ghosts in My Mother’s Kitchen by Normandi Ellis

“I know you think you killed me,” John Red Bird said, “but you just gave me another vessel to fill. You have to imagine me as being like a stream of water flowing from its aquifer out of the split side of a mountain. That’s what life is – a stream rushing headlong toward an end it can’t see. You can carry a clay vessel to the source to fill and carry away, but if you let the vessel fall and break, then what will happen?”

“It will be ruined,” the young girl said. “Useless. All for naught.”

John Red Bird laughed, put his feet in the stream and let the water flow across his toes.

“No. It’s not really ruined. The water came from the earth. The vessel breaks and the water inside flows out and sinks back into earth. The clay vessel, that’s just earth, too. The vessels change, but the water remains.”

Pulling on her long dark braid, Arzelia fell silent. She dug her toes into the cooler sandy loam along the river bank. Here by this river in the soft Kickapoo silt loam, her mother’s people had grown green-striped, sweet melons called Tom Watsons.

“The melon,” John Red Bird interrupted her thoughts, “is just another container. You’re body a vessel – another container. Did you know you are made mostly of water?

Arzelia looked down at her arms, staring at the pores of her own sunburned skin that began to resemble the dried cracked plates of mud on the river bank where the water had receded over the hot dry summer. Her own arm made her thirsty.

“What about clouds and vapor?” she asked the boy.

“What about them?”

“They’re not vessels.”

“Sure they are. Every form is a vessel. There are some vessels that change faster than you can define them. Others, maybe you can’t see at all,” he said. He was beginning to look cloudlike himself as he spoke. Maybe it was her eyes, Arzelia thought. She discovered that she was crying. Tears flowed down her face. One tear was a vessel for shame, one for regret, one for sorrow. Tears, Arzelia thought, were forms full of life force, too.

“I’m sorry,” she said as John Red Bird disassembled himself into a shaft of light playing on the water.

“That’s okay, Arzelia” John Red Bird whispered. “I forgive you.”

©2007 Normandi Ellis, all rights reserved