by Toby Altman

(10) ‘We went down to the lake to pour libations for the dead. It was a long walk so we started early, when the streets were empty, littered with trash from the evening’s parade. He looked tired. It was a while before either of us spoke.’

(11) ‘But, when we crossed Clark Street, a new light came into his eyes—“Aixma,” he said, “I never thought these jugs of honey would be so heavy.” And I said, “Piety is an unexpected weight.”

(“Her voice is sweet and low, like music from another room—around us, always, are the voices of the dead demanding unending devotion—but her voice is low and sweet.”)

(12) And Mrs. Elhai said, “My daughter, Aixma, is like you—she cannot learn to let go, to live without thinking.—What kind of a thing is a thought, anyway? Nothing. Nothing.—I have learned to listen to the commands of the dead, to remember them without longing for anything but memory.”

(13) Between the living and the dead: a bucket full of roses; a fountain of unending light; a hired woman who arranges the roses in her free time; the master of the house who urinates in the bucket late at night when he is overcome with drink.

And Aixma said, “Half of us are like those roses—sunk in the unsaid—and half of us are laughing all the time—“My God is an awesome God. My God—.” Because our bodies are swollen with the law; because our bodies are like festival birds, stuffed with cranberries and bread.”