Mùirnean (Beloved)

Henry mourned his wife Libby for seven years after she died in childbirth. Following the custom in Richmond, Virginia in 1910, he wore a black armband in public and even at home. Hattie, a cheery head warden of a woman at the first baptist church, was eventually able to entice him out of his melancholy long enough to marry again. But his despondency soon reoccupied the tall corner cabinet in his soul. Some nights Libby joined him on the nearby granite bench where they toasted the stars with windfall crab apples and ether from the pharmacy.

Declan’s dory boat wallows through the grabby and foul Irish sea working its way towards the island of Iona. He is one of six waxy faced pilgrims lining its open hull like grim Christmas ornaments. A talon-hard rain tries to claw away their faces. “I would see Iona in hell on a day like this,” says their boatman. His tiny outboard motor echos his discontent as it skips clear of the sea on the upward roll. At the crest Macbeth’s funeral boat is visible gaining seaway behind them. Mainsail straining wildly. Long sweeps clawing like an Orkney lobster.

Mary Catherine is driving home from visiting a medicine man on the Yuma reservation in Arizona. He has entrusted her with a torn eagle skin pouch to repair and care take for as long as she needs it. The beaded bag sits beside her on the seat of her sagging red Toyota truck. The dashboard glows soft gold in the lowering light. Her late stage breast cancer burrows in under her ribs. Venus begins its slow rise in the ragged paper sky in the west. As she crosses the Nevada border into Oregon, she looks up to see a set of fiery rings igniting the sky, rotating slowly over the Alvord desert like a festival of eyes.


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