Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal

Promise Sonata

Ben Watson

And then there are times when he doesn't know what to say. There would be something to articulate, surely, but he didn't have the slightest clue what sort of medium the clarification, the approximation (oh, how it slipped each time he tried), the best method that the unsettling new experience should be channeled through. So the one of words - the most familiar medium - would do for now, indeed, practically must do. But this was of a creeping, seeping variety, and he began to feel more and more sure that there wasn't really anything to say. Still, this is what he wrote her.


The thickest of the underbrush was behind them now. And yet there was desperation in the hand that held firmly to his, leading her over this narrow stream, then that; pockmarks of time: determined and ancient yet still quite young, this erosion. The process is considered up front in a brief and fleeting moment before a pudgy robin squeaks its upturned half-spiral to another robin high on a branch of one of the numerous mighty oaks. She follows his lead back onto the dirt path.

It's not as humid as I would have guessed; he collects the thought in his eyes while tilting a sallow head upward, catching the narrowest beams of light slipping down in prismic golden shafts to their dusty forest floor. Still he itches.

We may even stumble on a grail out here in this wilderness. He sent the thought her way as she was looking down from noticing herself the scattered beams led in by the densely-shading foliage ceiling looming at rest above them, he still holding her fingers lightly but surely, and she steps over that meager straw bundle of thorns that bisect the trodden path forged by those cattle that had spent their years grazing among these woods. A run of her silk white dress tears, hanging on a bristle in the brush and she tightens his grip with her thumb. Eyes fetter between these four: concentration, distress, blankness, and trust. Trust leaps again and again to the worriless apex, each instance his strong hand loosens a bit, allowing hers to do its part in their promise of dampened feathers.

Now the final incline through the woods. This is it. She's taking the message from his eyes and catches him nearly bite the side of his bottom lip. And turning his head back toward the top of the clear narrower path, he stores that picture of her cracking smile from a moment ago. Already the open field of sunlight is visible in the distance, that other side of the incline's summit. Their hands slide together, woven finger to finger with him pulling her up closer to his shoulder, then his breast. And still. No one speaks save the sparrows and warblers, robins and the wind teasing at a trembling, opening canopy.

He leads her with his foot and they step slow and down into the waters, its surface warm by the sun. Her eyes go large and she keeps on, and he keeps on, one foot in front of the other, letting out their last breath of air at the moment when the two at last reach the center of the pond, fully submerged. Their hands slip and mingle and come together once more when she points up with her foggy eyes, feeling no chill, guiding his eyes to that warm broad expanse above through the clear summer skies that warm the only pond in the forest. It's often so much I bubble over, she pleaded to him more than once before in their language free of words. He sends the plea to her now with a bubble slipping from his lips and up the waters green as an olive while amber strands sway in the spanse, the aqua space of their watery grave as airfree as it is filled with promise. And so it was that in this act they sealed their promise, these marooned islanders who on this day agreed they together would assemble the feathers needed to carry them away at last: on dampened wings in noonday sun.


Ben Watson was born and raised in Kentucky and currently resides in Portland, Oregon.

© Ben Watson

Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal ISSN 1554-8449, Copyright © 2004-2012