[Image Credit: Dolores Ayerza, “Luz a los indígenas 2,” 2017]
Emilia stares at the chicken coop. It houses a scaled dove. A tiger striped dog peers in through the diamond shaped mesh bent into a square by soiled rags fastened to four wooden posts that resemble masticate meat. A tin roof.
The sun blazes above. The ceiling stores its heat. Its light filters at an angle through the walls. The wire rhombuses cast a crescent pattern on the floor and the bird that hovers above it on a wooden perch that traverses the cage, its silhouette.
Folded wings covered in coal rimmed white feathers. A red crust encircles a beady eye on either side of its tucked face. Its pink feet render it almost human. He does not see her see him. Remains vigilant of the periphery. The dog that encircles it.
The pale body at rest expands. Wingspan. The cage obstructs flight. Black claws curl around wire. Pushes head through the hole. The broadest width of its neck obstructs. Releases grip. Grows heavy. Slips out.
Not a dead weight. It soars. To the ceiling that scorches the tips of its wings. Defeated by the absence of the sky. It does not fall but float. To the branch that once protruded from a tree.
Emilia sits on a fallen tree. Where upturned roots bind bending into a single trunk. A hand rests on her wide stomach. Jaw, where neck curves into chin, rests on her other palm. Fingers flex and straighten caressing her cheek. She picks something off the ground.
Fits her fist in the cage. The bird does not fit in her palm. Drops a handful of pumpkin seeds on a metal plate. A sound. It flies to the rim, unafraid. Picks open the shells and ingests. She traces the rim of its feather with the tip of her nail.
Watching the dove eat bores her. Watching it fly to the roof, try to fit through the holes, flutter down again, again. She studies its droppings instead. Size and shape vary. How it splatters depends on the height at which it excretes. All resemble islands from an aerial view.
She imagines walking into the sea. Sand burns the soles of her feet. A breaking wave dampens the cuff of her skirt. She waits for the tide to rise. It covers her knees and then where her legs begin. The dusty pink cloth that covers them floats up around her.
Falls onto her back. Waves carry her. Wash her hair clean. She turns so the sun reaches the back of her head. The salt stings her eyes. It turns the rims of her lids red. Her vision clouds. She cannot see the sky.
She recognizes a voice. “We live in the garden of Eden! Sing! Singing you can scream.” Padre Pedro’s booms. It streams through an open window from a radio on the kitchen table of the house next door.
The silhouette of a girl under the shadow of a tall columnar cactus by the side of the road. It is the neighbor’s eldest daughter, Guadalupe. An outstretched hand inspects the stiff fruit protruding from areole. The pink rind cracks open when it is ripe. They are green and tight.
The red flowers are in bloom. Tight petals enclose multiple stamens. She picks off a blossom and then the thorns off the stem. Places it on the now smooth surface with a piece of paper over it. Passes her pencil over the protruding surface. Its outline remains.
Drops the blossom. Stomps on it. Bends down to caress the now rough petals. They feel like her cheeks. The petals will never fall off and scatter. The bloom will remain whole. Buried. Places the imprint atop to mark the spot.
Returns to the plastic lawn chair on the denuded lawn. Takes a round metal case from her pocket. It fits in her hand. The setting sun shines on the metal rim and reveals a protrusion. Pressing it pops opens.
An enamel peony in her palm. A mirror facing her. Only her eyes fit in the frame. She meets her own gaze. It betrays fright. She caresses where her brows meet. Guadalupe looks like a dove. No one notices but Emilia.
Elisa Taber is a writer and anthropologist. She explores the interstice between translation and epistemology in the indigenous narratives of the Paraguayan, Bolivian, and Argentine Gran Chaco. Both her stories and translations are troubled into being, even when that trouble is a kind of joy. Elisa was born in Asunción, raised in La Paz, New York, Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires, and Jakarta, and currently lives in Montreal.