The Defiant Light
This new era makes me old, my brother Khalid says. I had a nimble sense of grace and now my chest feels boulder weight. It’s as if the world collapsed on its side and we are lying down when we should be standing
It’s your pain, Khalid. A feast of tears. The world has moved on.
It has, he says. We face an angry act of providence that compels us, all of us, to feel our connected sorrow. Look around, Hamid. Look around.
On the bench where we sit in front of a barber shop on the avenue of giants the morning slanted sun fingers the dusty street. Feet joined through legs to drab faces pass. Once we steered our own roads, taught them which way to run. Bicycles made hopeful songs of spokes. These days compliance is the trumpet note we blow and dissent a cause for castigation.
Khalid taps my arm, gestures to the street. Every time I hear a phone, he says, my throat fills with birds. My stomach retches and everything I learned in school flies out. It’s nothing but troubles they transmit.
Please. Don’t forget your past, brother. It teaches us.
Yes, by contrast, that we live in an age of sickness.
A new disease, I say.
It’s my sickness too, Hamid. My sickness of loss. It puts graves in my eyes.
She died as she lived, I say. And we still recite her many names.
A beggar approaches the bench, no words but those in the palm of his outstretched hand. Go away, I say. We’ve no time. He turns and with one shoe missing, or one shoe found, retreats.
My daughter did nothing wrong, says Khalid.
She broke the law, I say.
Some law must crumble to broken bricks.
Of course he is right and I once agreed to express my agreement, to give it substance and weight, before they forced me to whisper anguish for my only son. They slashed his legs and issued threats that he may never grow to manhood if I stood in the way of their plan, harmony patrolled and purchased on the streets with bolder bullets. They offered my son in exchange for my surrender, my retreat. I could run through the rain for the last train out of my rebellious world and listen to the axles rumble as my beliefs crumbled to their own broken bricks. We will burn the sticks with which we beat slaves at the altar, they promised. It was love as dagger and worship as whip, but I agreed and saved my son while Khalid my brother let his daughter roam into the harsh arms of commandments.
It’s everywhere, says Khalid. Look around, Hamid. Look around.
My brother is right and I know his loss is strength, and mine weakness. I wet my eyes with blindness for all the people on their knees, a phone in hand, that drives with its demands mad our throats and stomachs which, united, attempt to purge the bile we have sanctioned through silence.
My son is safe, I say.
Khalid stands, walks a pace, turns. And my daughter gone, he says. An old woman with a donkey passes.
At least you still have your wife, Khalid. I can’t lose my son.
Of course, he says. He sits again, touches my cheek. Many losses, one heart.
If only it were that easy, I say.
It is, says Khalid. Throw out your phone and the conflict it preaches. Reject the lie that we must hurl our freedom against the killing wall.
In thirty years my son is me, I say.
All the more reason, Hamid.
With that simple truth, like a broken drum I have no sound. My tongue sleeps as dead on a bed of fear. I traded my truth for safety. I gained a son and lost a man. The sun now higher in the sky judges me. It splits me into two slabs of hesitation and asks in silent radiant speech if I will continue to hide in the compliant shadows or step once more into the uncertain and defiant light.
Thanks so much for reading Dynamic Creed. Today is a special publication, not a Tuesday as you probably have noticed. The reason is that this piece, The Defiant Light, came about due to a writing prompt reunion via the wonder of Zoom hosted by Heather L. Huffman and Nicole Rivera, and will be shared with the group this morning.
The meeting was a lot of fun, and I’d like to say thanks to Heather, Nicole, and the other folks who participated. Today we share and take it from there.
Sincerely, Victor David
This reads very heavily--you really have a powerful writing voice. There is an artfulness to your prose that I really appreciate. Beautiful piece!
Victor there are so many beautiful lines and phrasings, I feel like I want to read this over and over again simply to sit with some of them! It is nearly poetic.
Thanks so much for participating in our prompt celebration.