Borderland, by Michelle Kopp

Within the Borderland, she lingers among tombstones.

Through opaque greyness cast over the glittering vibrancy beyond the edge, children’s swings begin to calm in the bleakness of autumn breezes; amber leaves rustle through the grasses before snowfalls blankets feathery-light upon them. Through the cold winter, they decay beneath the footfalls of children, to be forgotten with the cherry-blossom spring.

But within the desolation of the Borderland, voices whisper the hushed moments before death; it is wasteland playgrounds of forgotten childhoods and scarlet fever; it is speckles of blood soaking through shrouds above cracked, thin lips as mothers weep in white mantles; it is evening’s sunlight descending through the cemetery.

A rusted bench of rotted wood guards the child’s slumber beyond the gauzy edges of the Borderland. Her daughter rests in the earth compressed beneath many cold winters reborn as spring maidens, beneath those springtime maidens aged to withering winter crones.

Rotten wood splinters in her translucent skin as she sits. The mourning cry of a songbird mingles with the crackling of a crow and she falls to her knees; she sets black feathers of remembrance over the resting grave as silent tears glisten in her eyes. Forgotten in the soil, a mouldy child’s corn dolly with one buttoned eye missing, a broken statue of a woman with faery wings. A small weed grows through holes chipped in stone, clinging to sunlight and water droplets falling from ice-jade eyes.

Soft whispers of a child’s laughter — her child’s melodic laughter as she hides among the brambles. ‘Mommy . . . Mommy . . .’ wafting through the winds of memory, a small tug on her dirty apron at the harvest festival, flour-covered hands and faces. Her muddy hand leaving imprints on the mattress, on the clean clothes drying on the line in the waning sunlight.

Trapped within the desolate winter of the Borderland, she has drifted through the tombstones — through those of the darkest granite honoured with fresh flowers in pastel pink and white, with toy tractors and harvesters, with plastic dollies in cotton clothing — endlessly through those with newly-packed soil and with squeaking gophers playing amongst the souls of light-hearted children.

Their laughter breaks her heart and she continues to kneel at the neglected grave — once loved, once remembered — the wisps of her hand slipping through last autumn’s leaves collected against the side of a broken seraph.

The words craved in gravestone, faded through lonely years: sleep, my little one; sleep.

Michelle Kopp is an overworked graduate student and part-time writer in Saskatchewan, Canada.  Her creative non-fiction work has recently appeared in The Diverse Arts Project and Up On The Prairies.  ‘Borderland’ has recently appeared in Yesteryear Fiction (link).

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