She offered a challenge and I accepted. She needed a different perspective on the day. She stated a desire and I heard her need. It is my job to respond, my purpose. She belongs to me and I to her. It is the very thing I was created for, but sometimes she forgets. They all do. 

But, I am also made of stone. Stone is made up of space. Space is made of time. And that has infinite possibility and memory. But she forgot this too. They all do. 

I knew what was coming that day. The chaos. It is my design to know. To anticipate the next heart beat of this land and her people. To know the magic of their visions. To contain the possibility in the walls of this shrine.  Too bad, they stopped dreaming a long time ago. They forgot that miracles and magic are the mortar in between the bricks. They stood me up for that purpose, and then forgot me. They all do. 

I am not a building, but a temple. I was “built, burnt, extended, and restored.” They only rebuild the most sacred things so I thought I was safe. How will they rebuild me now I wonder? They are Lost to their own sacredness, and if you can’t know yours, you can’t know anothers’. Oh, I’m standing, but they forget what I am standing for. So I need to be rebuilt, or better. But they forget me.

Some of them are memory keepers. Every once in a while one comes through to honor and give offerings to me. But time often makes even the best of them forget.  Not These new ones though; they were there to witness. The ancestors have returned in These ones. And They remember. They know the truth. The ancestors have protected my divinity these thousands of years. I belonged to them long before I belonged to the shrines I’ve been built into. They knew to keep my Divinity in their land, in the trees, mountains and fields. They’ve let me flow in streams and rivers. They’ve invited me to rain dances, vegetables gardens, and cold lemon aid. They created me in herbal medicines, braided hair, and stardust eyes. That’s where my Divinity belonged anyway, where I was sourced from. Where They and I exist together, where we all return. At peace and in wholeness. They were observant and still, patient and determined. The memory-keepers don’t forget. They never do. 

Did you know that my incarnation here was designed by a physician? The Seneca sandstone was ferried in. Washington laid my first brick with a masonic ritual. But their new God, as they’ve built him in their image, is a consuming and treacherous God. He tolerates only his own agenda. He is hard, calculating, and vengeful. I’m not like that. But I wasn’t built by them, not really. They forget that on purpose. 

These halls might have been imagined by white minds, hungry to decolonize themselves, but ill-equipped for the task. But I was built by hands the color of soil, the loamy fertile kind. They tried to get hands like theirs, but there simply weren’t enough to do the work. They out-sourced Divinity; they do that often. No, I was built with the sweat and fortitude of those faithful to my promise. I was sung into existence with secret hymns and the swing of strong arms who knew the secret truth of what they were erecting. They Know Freedom and she Knows them. Even if it doesn’t look like it, it’s true. Their descendants are starting to remember.

Not the Forgetters and Lost ones though. Freedom was just a mistress to them. Had they simply forgotten her that would have been ok. No, they betrayed Freedom. They scorned her. And that is a spirit you simply shouldn’t fool with. That’s why they came here that day. They wanted to tear me down. Once and for all, they wanted their God to consume me. They didn’t even know why. They forget who I am. They always do.

I had to let them in. I had to. I put a spell on the police. I worked a lot of painful spells that day. It was necessary. I’m sorry for the ones that were hurt, that wasn’t supposed to happen. I tried to protect them too. The man, the officer, he’ll be a guardian of the land forever. It was only right to honor him that way. And the Lost ones, the Forgetters. Well, I had to let them in so that everyone would see that I have been forgotten. I wasn’t just forgotten, no that might have been ok. No, I was forsaken. They broke their promise. I was betrayed. And Freedom, well I’m a spirit you simply shouldn’t fool with. 

It is destiny for me to be reclaimed. Those who have been oppressed and made invisible. Those who have gone missing. Those who are denied me, who are impoverished or imprisoned under pretense by their false God. The first ones and the last ones…the memory keepers are ready. And all relations of theirs. Their kin, those who built my walls, made me a temple, created this altar, they are ready. My sister, the Tide, she moves on their behalf.  They might have been denied by the Lost ones, the ones who always forget. They’ve never been denied by me. Their souls have always belonged to me, to the oceans, to the streams, to the soil, to the sky. They have belonged to me and I to them. I am Their God and they are mine. It can never be not so.

I made them a promise and I mean to keep it. Because there are those that might forget, willfully and purposefully…but I never do. 

 

7 Comments

  1. Emily Bertholf

    This is a really great first draft, singing with a lot of great lines. My favorite one: “They out-sourced Divinity; they do that often.” Nice work.

    • Rhyannon Brightwater

      I love this idea of Liberty speaking through her incarnation as this sacred shrine. And isn’t that why humans have always made shrines and statues? Some really beautiful lines. I was built by hands the color of soil, the loamy fertile kind. I appreciate this line that ties the beauty of black and brown people to the vitality and beauty of this world whether it is loamy soil or a wide river depositing rich soil onto the land.

  2. Dominique Christina

    This is a well-crafted draft. So many juicy, lyrical lines that were balmy and led us almost scripturally toward plot- which of course was the desecration of a sacred building. A sacred building that is personified and given a voice. A voice that tethers us to the story because the building is the narrator. Sacred stone. Set amongst those who “out-source divinity.” Gorgeous stuff. I always appreciate the moments when we are asked to broaden our empathy and our consideration of sorrow. We know, most of us anyway, know to grieve for the loss of life in that building. We know to grieve for the terrible fracturing of the democratic process. We know to feel alarm and anguish for proper nouns when they are people but not when they are things, places…and places hold memory for us. And hurt for us. And precedent for us. And victory for us. That you gave us a way to grieve the building and the bruise it hosted was important to me. Thank you for writing this.

  3. Karen Schauber

    The long winding thread running through the ages and this piece is compelling —the memory keepers. why not title it ‘The Memory Keepers’

  4. Trent

    Very novel style. Really dig how the “ideals lost and betrayed” runs throughout.
    For some reason, I like the “knew what was coming section” the best –
    I’ll be re-reading this more than a few times.

  5. Chelsea Stickle

    I love this: “But, I am also made of stone. Stone is made up of space. Space is made of time. And that has infinite possibility and memory. But she forgot this too. They all do…They forgot that miracles and magic are the mortar in between the bricks. They stood me up for that purpose, and then forgot me.” Punched me in the gut with this one: “They are Lost to their own sacredness, and if you can’t know yours, you can’t know anothers’” and here too: “They out-sourced Divinity; they do that often.”

    This is a quiet piece that screams by whispering. It’s lovely.

  6. Martha Jackson Kaplan

    Kristin, I like the conception of this. Solid draft with some incisive lines that remind of us of the too-forgotten history of this building so central to our history. Love the sense that the building is of stone, but “Stone is made up of space. Space is made of time. And that has infinite possibility and memory.” Lovely. A sort of infinite lightness to the marble. “I was “built, burnt, extended, and restored.” They only rebuild the most sacred things so I thought I was safe. How will they rebuild me now I wonder?” Special reminders, seminal lines. Some compression for the next draft might make sense, but be sure to keep these (and others) really important lines. Loved reading this.

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