Vol. 7

ANNE RIESENBERG
The Leaves Will Protect Us

 

I am traveling through a country slowly catching on fire. Past towns simmering on dusty hillsides, bleached fields rattling in the sun.

A girl walks towards me with a car balanced on top of her head—just the shell of it, no engine or wheels. The girl is swathed ankles to neck in a quilted jumpsuit.

She is also wearing gloves socks and boots. I can hear the woman she’s with praising her for covering her body so well.

We meet on the shore of a dry riverbed. The landscape surrounds us like a bowl, like a Bruegel tableau. Men push wheelbarrows piled with husks women haul branches a boy spreads grain for some hens. The air around them glows vaguely red.

A young man arrives to show me how to use plants for protection. He has a portable apothecary strapped to his back—rows of leaves rooted in bottles on tiny glass shelves—agave, banana, honeysuckle, coffee.

If you grow them large enough he says they will become your umbrella.

The young man tells me I am living inside a terrarium, an old jar adrift, too close to the sun. Twenty years he says twenty years before we are statues of ash.

A car pulls up—a 1972 Continental. Paint almost gone windows punched out. Nine withering men stuffed inside, I understand now, to stay out of the glare.

The driver points to the man sitting behind him, a smiling man with no eyes, a face I know but can’t place, and says you must tell him he is a child of god.

I hesitate. Who am I to say such a thing?

He repeats himself. I will not act without faith so I wait. After some time I smell trees. Words twine on my tongue. Still I’m not sure.

My mouth is a forest when I finally speak. You are a child of god I say. You are all children of god.

My voice is so fragrant, so green—the glass above our heads dissolves into rain.

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