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Mama Watu

by na’im 10 months ago in Short Story
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marigolds and moonlight

photo by Patti Ratchford


When she looked in the mirror she could barely recognize her own face. Her eyes were so white they cast a bluish tint. They appeared larger and rounder than she remembered. Rosalyn, now known as Sister Ayodele, had not seen a reflection of herself in over six weeks. Her dark brown skin, once marred by acne, now appeared smooth and translucent, casting off a subtle copper glow. Her cheekbones were more pronounced accentuating her wide jawline. Her expression was flat and pensive, her brow and lips relaxed and unmoving.

Ayodele turned away, promising not to look again less she lose the concentration born of weeks of singing, dancing, trance, and fasting. Best not to use the eyes to look into one’s own soul. She saw that clearly now. Clear seeing was not a gift that one took for granted.

Ayodele walked out of the small room she had rented in Leogane toward the courtyard, which led out to a rocky shoreline littered with the fallen bark of palm trees. Each step brought her deeper into the movement of the wind and the sound of the ocean rushing toward the rugged beachline. She closed her eyes, choosing instead to trust the many hundreds of times she had walked this path. She trusted her feet, her arms, her legs, her nose, to lead her right into the welcoming arms of the watery graves of her ancestors.

The orange shift dress that fell to her calves was soaked in minutes. In another few seconds, the worn cotton was clinging to her chest. Instead, diving into the ocean she walked outward until the shifting sands underneath her feet gave way to pull of the evening tide. As the water took her the full her weight into itself, Ayodele arched her back high so that she could float on her back, never once opening her eyes to the setting sun. She no longer needed to use them to see.

Behind her eyes swirled orbs of blue and orange, and red and purple. And then gold. Ayodele no longer heard the waves, instead, she heard the drums of her seven-day initiation ceremony. The drums carried her off, further away from the shore, further away from the water and the sky and the dying sunlight. Her legs fell away from her body. Her lungs collapsed within themselves. Her ears stretched until they formed long slits against the sides of her skull. Waves and water no longer had meaning, only flickers of vibration of the hundred of thousands of creatures that swam and dug, and undulated and slid around her.

When Ayodele opened her eyes she was no longer in the sea. She was in a field of marigolds shining blood red in the light of the 1969 harvest moon.


Phillips County Arkansas, 2020

She had said it so many times, she got tired of saying it. She said it so much that folks go tired of hearing it. The levies of Phillips county Arkansas that held the kept the waters Mississippi river in their place would break on October 12, 2021, at midnight, the first night of the Harvest Moon. The only thing that would keep the waters at bay was a spell cast by her granddaughter, Taina. At age 82, her fingers curled with arthritis, Ayodele could no longer gather the ingredients to cast the new mold of the scarab beetle in sandstone and marigold. So she he had given the child the instructions. Ayo taught her the difference between the marigold and the flowers mistook as marigold, the calendula. She had explained the difference between transformation and metamorphosis, death and rebirth, gravity and consciousness. The differences had the power to stop reverse the tide of the ocean so that it would suck the river back into the gulf with the changing tide of the October moon. The town folk thought that if they drink marigold oil, it would make them invincible. They were fools. But her daughter’s daughter had the power of Oshun, the intuition of the moonlight, the immortality of the scarab, and the eternal optimism of the marigold to make the possible, impossible and save Phillips county from its own stupidity.

As as soon Taina completed the spell, Ayodele felt ripples of electricity ripple into her body. The waters of the Mississippi were warm and cloudy nothing like the Atlantic ocean, though in due time she would soon find herself again overcome by its all-encompassing embrace. As the sands sucked beneath her feet she no longer felt the rain beating down over her head of the thunder clapping deep behind the glow of the red-orange moon. Her time on land had finally come to an end. She could finally rejoin her daughter in the arms of Oshun.

Short Story

About the author


K-12 educator originally from the South now freezing in the Upper Midwest.

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