Promenade in an English Graveyard

by | Stop Making Sense 2 - Day 1

Tremors of silverfish twist through crevices in the Escomb church walls. Alive in the shadows. Centuries of insects slick with Saxon blood. My father pierces the brown air with his fist, meaning, let’s promenade through the graveyard. I take his arm. He whistles for his childhood dog, Rosie, who leaps from a steamer trunk full of Dad’s memories. Good pup, I say.

Outside, the sky moves like a rat snake shedding its skin. My dead sister sits on a tombstone with an incribed skull and crossbones. Kicks her bare heels against the skull’s sooted eyes. I’m waiting, she says.

On the far side of the graveyard, Dad finds the Limpopo river. We watch it slug by, watching us back with its greasy eye. Dad sees a baby rhino stuck in the mud. Hurry, he says, in Zulu, tossing me a jeep and seven strong men. It takes us hours and a lot of rope, but we free the rhino. Dad beams for the rest of his life at the rhino. Though godless, you were always the smart one, he says, calling me by my sister’s name.

14 Comments

  1. Robert Vaughan

    Hi Lisa, so nice to see you here! There is much to admire in your tight, spare gem. Love how you use settings and even mention the ‘Promenade’ in your title. I always admire how you balance your poetic prose so magically. One outstanding example is the opening line of the second paragraph:

    ‘Outside, the sky moves like a rat snake shedding its skin.’

    Throughout my first reading of this, the composer Saint- Saens came to mind, his Danse Macabra, (which has skeletons that dance at midnight, and scared the living daylights out of me as a kid in our basement!)
    Also, the dead sister, and the twist at the end in which Dad calls the speaker by the dead sister’s name.

    There is a dark pall over the entire piece, that I think you might explore further… What is the real threat and why are we being withheld from it? This is a great start!!! Don’t be afraid to ask those probing questions!

    • Lisa Alletson

      Thanks, Robert. I love that you got a Danse Macabra feel from this!

      I don’t yet know where I’m going with this one as a story. But it felt good to try writing again after months of not feeling creative. Your prompt of using a place name and disease inspired this one about my Dad’s Alzheimer’s. You ask a great question. I’ll use that to keep developing it.

  2. Len Kuntz

    Lisa,

    Wow, this had me riveted. All the darkness, all the luscious details, the foreboding, and then how, right away, you reign it in with, “Good pup.”
    And what a great last line.
    This is one to read many times over.
    Great job.

  3. Koss Just Koss

    Love, Lisa, all of it, the wonderful details, this:
    “Though godless, you were always the smart one, he says, calling me by my sister’s name.” OOOF!
    “Outside, the sky moves like a rat snake shedding its skin.”

    and how much a rat snake moving is like the Limpopo River.

  4. Chelsea Stickle

    Your use of verbs in this is amazing! Slug, twist, pierce. They made me look at the world differently. A little in love with your second paragraph!

  5. David O'Connor

    Lisa, this is so powerful and beautiful. I felt like I was right there with you. This line: Dad beams for the rest of his life at the rhino… really touched me. Magical writing. Send it into the world pronto!

    • Lisa Alletson

      Thanks, David. I’m not sure it’s ready yet but will give some thought about where to send it. Much appreciated!

  6. Roberta Beary

    I love the macabre yet whimsical auras that swirl in this piece about ALZ.

    I am in awe of this sentence: Outside, the sky moves like a rat snake shedding its skin.
    It made me thing of TSE’s Prufrock opening.

    And how deftly you weave South Africa into an English graveyard: On the far side of the graveyard, Dad finds the Limpopo river./Hurry, he says, in Zulu, tossing me a jeep and seven strong men. It takes us hours and a lot of rope, but we free the rhino.

    The dementia leitmotif sings out here: he says, calling me by my sister’s name.

    I recall all of my mother’s ALZ battles and her few happy moments when reading this piece. TY, Lisa!

    • Lisa Alletson

      Thank you so much for this encouraging feedback, Roberta. I’m glad you can relate to finding the happy moments with your mother. I had to learn to meet Dad where he was to find those moments, and play in the memories with him. They were a gift during a difficult time.

  7. Meg Tuite

    Hi Lisa,
    ‘tremors, twist, crevices, slick, pierces, promenade,
    DAMN GORGEOUS LANGUAGE and it’s killer! That 2nd paragraph! I agree with Chelsea. Spectacular!
    And the ending, as well!
    I would send it out! DEEP LOVE!

    • Lisa Alletson

      Oh wow, thanks so much Meg. I’m a big fan of your writing. I’ll think about her to send it.

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