Unannounced Guest by Alison Davis Oh, Hope, I wasn’t expecting you. Now isn’t really a good time. I’m quite busy at the moment. I have things to prepare. I am preparing things. Judging things. Pointing my finger at people because this matters, and I have to be the one to say it. Could you come back some other time, like when the peach tree I never planted starts to blossom? Or when the sidewalk turns into a tidepool? I should be done with my business by then. Well, since you insist, since there’s something in your larksong voice that tastes like a meadow, I guess you can come in for a few minutes. Have a seat over there next to that stack of legers. Hope, you are crowding me a little, and the way you smell like jasmine is distracting me. Was that you I saw one afternoon, outside the mosque, laying between the stray dog and the smiling blind man? His eyes were so milky-beautiful, but we can talk about that later. Right now, I’m trying to keep track of all these resentments. Someone stacked the cereal bowls out of order, and the meeting ran twenty minutes over. Also, didn’t you hear the rumors? They threatened me. They called me dangerous, a predator. They found out I was thirsty and handed me a glass of bleach, hoping I would drink and be drained of all my color. They walked all over her. You saw the scars when you visited her, right? We need a list of every transgression. I absolutely must set the record straight. These things matter, Hope, don’t they? They don't? You don’t know what you’re talking about. You are so wrapped up in your beehive-thoughts. Not everything in the world is sweet, Hope. People take more than what they need. I guess you’re right that some give, give, gratefulize even out of utter emptiness. I felt that way too, that morning by the field. But please, could you just let me finish what I’m working on? These records are my area of expertise. I could have a hit list put together in no time flat if you would just stop interfering. Why don’t you make yourself some tea? By the time the water boils, I’ll have the tallies ready: how many times I have been wronged, and how much each time hurt, so that I know how many times to twist the knife and how many eyes to pluck out. I have a good memory, Hope, and I’m good at writing. So I remember and write. Yes, I do remember that night at the donut shop and painting coreopsis in the driveway, but I have more pressing accounts to detail, Hope. I don’t have time to look back on my daughter’s first birthday when my father was in good health and we walked the pier in Pacifica. The mountain in Montara doesn’t matter now, nor does Sinai or Deauville. The way he carried me into the shower when I couldn’t walk. The tablecloth patterned after the ceiling of the Blue Mosque. The full pot of navy bean soup. But the kissing that never stops stopped, Hope. Don’t you see? I am determined to write down everything she could have said instead of that sincere I’m sorry. I’m trying to describe the devil that took over his eyes when he stood in the doorway with a knife in his hands. We used to play so well as kids. We used to help each other cheat in Monopoly. We walked to school arm-in-arm for years. It still rains in the summer there, in that place we are from. It stays green. Hope, don’t go snooping around in those journals. Those other-lunged love letters to no one. Mere sour-lipped longings now. Transient truths. Vagabonds, vagrants. I know that I wrote about redemption. I know what I said about healing. Still, cancer claims, and the fires feast. I know Lucy never became an orphan and Luke built a new house, Kari too. I know I was in full bloom, but that season was short, and now I’m withering on the vine. You expect me to believe I’m a whole vineyard? Yes, I am surviving the frost. Hope, how can you see me shivering even now and still want to talk about the sun? Okay, Hope, since you are so committed to covering me with garlands and filling the cracks with gold, let me level with you. My faith is sun-starved. I hobble on grease-fire feet. My hands are made of barley husks. It’s cliffs all the way down. I jump and nothing catches me. I can’t catch my breath. You want me to breathe with you? There’s that jasmine again. The pink and white. The sidewalk that ran out, and the warmth that permanently stained my palms. The sea-song at the heart of all of my psalms. I’m singing again, the waves are crashing, the boulders are slowly eroding, the sun is speedily setting. It’s night it’s dark I’m dark-deep in the belly of the unknown I groan I groan I grow-groan in the deep-dark in the dark the stars come out the stars and hope and Hope, they start to shout, they sing hope.
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Alison is an award-winning educator, author, and activist who was born in Detroit but now calls California home. Her writing has appeared in numerous literary and scholarly publications, including The Sun, Rattle, Pensive: A Global Journal of Spirituality and the Arts, Braided Way Magazine, Research Bulletin, and SAUTI: Stanford Journal of African Studies. Alison is the author of Wild Canvas (Finishing Line Press) and A Rare But Possible Condition (Saddle Road Press). Instagram: @poems_and_pebbles