Once More, with Viscera by Helen Ganiy

The day was not made up of he’s and she’s and now the night fell upon her young arms and legs with the aggression it was made for. Tough, maybe, or the hard-fought want of it. There were others pressing by her as she stalled on their way to the cemetery. Each face had the candy-cut-out gloss of some saccharine god, some scratching lack. She had thrown out the book by the spine fifteen years ago even with the siren of voices pinching her back, crying for her soul messed among the dust. Now someone threw a gob of soil onto her father’s coffin. He didn’t want a coffin. He wanted a sheet. She stuck to the edges, pressed a booted toe against the iron gate. It was swung open so the mourners could come and stick a finger against the headstone, sob a flower into the grave. He had hated to cut the flower from the body of the plant, where it belonged.

She did not know what it was like to lose a father, really, and so the familiar voice on the 4am phone had been dreamlike, ghosting on the peripheral of a long gaze back to normalcy. Sameness, which lingered against the slats of her cupboards where she kept things clean, American, modern. Her mother pricked her fingers into just cooked rice but she did not do that. She was not the old way, and she blazed on through a crest of stones and dust and a Moorish nightman tipping a hat. This was the expensive cemetery, the women pulled polyester headscarves around spotted faces. The men stayed on their side, pushing the children up to look, see, the thin coffin. Not hermetically sealed, her mother had said, that causes the body to burst within and is unnatural; she was propping the powder puff against her cheek as she said it.

Perhaps she was the daughter, the word she had disowned, as now the imam came up to her and pressed a small book in her hands. He was nodding with old country slowness and there was not a tear shed between the two of them. An angry man, a solid and dependable man. He had not wanted a coffin and here he was lowered down into the bright, polished mahogany, Western, some expletive of wealth. She felt acutely that she had dismantled something in this space. She slipped a hand into the pocket of her jeans and across the way a greenish moon sparkled out from between two firs. A Victorian cemetery, with the famous headstone held by the tree and the spot where that tree had fallen, leaving a hole in the sky. The cemetery where pioneers baked beneath an uncracking surface of earth. There was nothing particular about this funeral. There was not a friend from the East, no plane tickets, no time, no money. The members of a religious council lined up and pressed fingers to foreheads, sorry, low, purplish against the outline of trees.

She lingered then on the outside of the circle. The women were pulling at their scarves to bring the fabric back to a firm place. Now she unpocketed her hand and in her palm was a tiny book with Arabic in a circular pattern, and she was reminded of the vastness one man may contain in the tones of his voice. Eyeing the ancestral dust in the night sky, came upon her father’s abandoned plot and stone. They had all gone, struggled down the great hill and into their cars to come, refreshed, upon the bursting warmth and newness of their homes. Handling the dirt above the grave, she made a small space where the book would fit. She did not bring the book to her lips or hold it open to her bare collar bone, but pressed its soft red leather into the freshly upturned soil and turned to leave.

Now she saw the streets were full. The machines were churning. It was a long stretch to morning and she continued on towards the orange sulphur lamps near downtown, the scratch and moan of friends, future, the shrink and color of glass. The moon was green that night, a nightmare green huddled above the cars and buildings. She eyed it with the disinterest of an animal on the lam.

 

 

 

Helen Ganiy lives in Santa Rosa, CA, and is a graduate of Sonoma State University. She has completed work on her first novel, Women in the Down, and has begun work on her second. Her work was featured in the Spring 2016 print anthology of Crack the Spine magazine, as well as several national publications.

 

 

 

(Front page image via)



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