As a conductor of human lives, he led his band across untilled earth. Everything was new and unnamed and each moment was filled with the necessity of volition. Electricity flowed through him and all contact between body and world drew static. Total awareness of the world was his duty: he tracked the movement of the birds and insects and game large and small, the direction of the wind and the miasma of scents it brought, he tuned into all sound and all silence, and when he slept it was with his ear to the dirt feeling for the slightest vibration. Under his watch, his people grew and he loved them all. When his time came he anointed his son and left his people. He walked into a quiet glade where the sun had been waiting for him, where the sun would find him, and here he waited to be born again. This time he returned with fire for his people. Then with medicine. She fed her children and children’s children at her breast. She tilled the earth. He walked through flame. He dug a canoe with his son and taught him to be fearless for his people as he dove upon the sacred beasts of the sea. He shit his pants and turned as the cavalry rode towards him. She held her daughter’s hand and told her to be strong for her people as her grandchild’s soul entered the world. She came as her neighbor’s husband fucked her against a tree. He went to war for his tribe and prayed for the soul of the enemy he slew and prayed for his own violated soul and prayed for them all. She wept alone through twelve moons with the heart of her dead husband caught in her throat, with the face of her dead husband sewn into her eyelids, with the voice of her dead husband issuing from some nameless void for her alone to hear for her alone to dread for her alone to pine for her alone alone alone. They became a thief, a whore, a corrupt leader, a martyr, a failed artist, a sideshow freak, a killer, a slave, a suicide, a lauded poet. They stood barefoot on the windy shoal where being met nothingness and as the water rose they looked out into the cold, white span of time encompassing them and felt the eyes and ears and minds of the children of the earth and they called to them in the distance of that faded photograph and they listened and they knew.
Mitchell Teal is a writer living in Richmond, VA.