Rumors of War
She nuzzles deeper into her flannel-lined sleeping bag and tries to quiet the dreams becoming nightmares that interrupt her night. The air, the freshness lulls her outside and promises a restful night. Though it is her own yard and she sleeps inside a warm tent, she lets her empathy move her to other places and into other minds. The planes fly low overhead, buzzing and booming their way across the sky like great gas generators droning the technological revolution into her mind. The beat, the rhythm of the planes is antithetical to the slow moving gurgle of the river. The harsh sonic abrasiveness of the jet engines crashes abrasively against the slow, raspy whispers of the tall pine, whose needles rub softly together giving her the illusion of a God who does love, who does care. She sleeps.
There will be wars and rumors of wars. The planes become less of an annoyance and more of a reminder that other people in other places live with this raucous persistence every day. In those places, planes carry a threat. They carry sadness: the sadness that comes when an orphan is made, the sadness that comes when a parent sees a die, and the sadness that comes when those who fly the planes realize what they have done and don’t understand why they have done it. The sleeping woman envisions the nightmares of others. She sees them happen in front of her, but cannot look away. She reaches out to help, but cannot get there. She struggles to comfort the children, but they will not stop crying. The sirens scream past her in the night foretelling more tragedy. Buildings burn. Things get lost. People die. The ground shakes, though the clay is hard and unforgiving. The tremors come. Bombs rip through the air, punching holes in buildings, showering the already parched land with glowing embers. She thinks the fiery flowers remind her of celebrations from another time. They open in the night sky. Purple. Red. Yellow. Each burst more brightly lit than the last. This may be the last war.
Foxes have holes. Birds have nests. The son of man has nowhere to lay his head. Sometimes she wears a shirt that says, “Jesus was homeless.” She thinks, “Jesus is homeless.” As she sleeps, the woman lives under the Elm Street Bridge. All day long she pushes her meager collection through the streets in a wobbly-wheeled shopping cart. Squeaking along. Some days, there is no cart and she carries everything in thin, plastic bags. They tear. Her food falls, spilling out onto the road, cans clunking, rolling, and bottles breaking. The cars do not stop. They rush past in a fury. Sometimes they honk and the drivers yell. Each night, her possessions are gathered, collected, and guarded. Sleep is extravagance. Each noise, each night, is the sound of intrusion, violation. Are the approaching footfalls hostile or friendly? The rush of the tires and engines gliding along Elm Street above is amplified. The rocks are jagged and hard, and her cardboard bed is not thick enough. She waits every night for any man to come and take her, or her belongings, against her will. She knows one day she will come to this spot, her home, and all will be lost. Someone will have stolen her life. Someone will have deemed her unsightly. Someone will have erased her. Even her cardboard bed will be missing.
Inside her tent, the woman awakes, stiff but rested. These thoughts and dreams she has experienced are merely empathetic sensations. To others they are apocalyptic resonances of terror. She asks: Will I be next? I will lift up my eyes to the hills—from whence comes my help?