May 31, 2009

The Brightness of the Night

The lightning came without the thunder. It slipped across the sleeping city. And there stood a woman, still slender as a girl, in a red kimono. She stood high in the air and leaned against the metal rail of the stairs, facing north. It was quiet, but for the rush of a car and the call of a lonely train passing through the yard. Even the trees stood silent and only the lightest breeze stirred, a warm south wind, comforting and soft, caressing the tips of her hair and the long sleeves of silk.

She leaned her elbows on the rail and watched the clouds dance and the light sing. Lightning makes no sound unless it kisses the earth. A jagged bolt flashed low beneath the belly of the cloud, like a good strip tease showing the first sign of skin, and she smiled a great wide smile and hummed a little laugh unto herself. Over her shoulder she checked the watchful moon, golden and half full, waxing on its way to the first full moon of summer. She turned back to the north and pressed her fist against her lips and leaned into the metal rail, as if she might become closer with the sky. A lone cat crossed beneath, alert but unafraid, unhurried.

And the sky sang, and she hummed to the tune only she could hear. No hint of rain rode the air. No thunder rolled, but she could feel it in her bones, like the unheard chants of elephants or the songs of whales far out at sea. The great soft clouds were dark, too dark even to blush at the gold and pink city lights reflected on their bellies, and the dark night was blue behind them, pulsing white faster than a dove’s heartbeat. She held her breath and did not blink as the specters danced. And still she smiled a secret smile.

A single great bolt speared down, straight down at last. The rumble came, a blessing from earth to heaven. She glanced again over her left shoulder, seeking the absent moon in the southwest sky. The trees began to whisper and the warm south wind departed with a soft benediction across her cheek. The cool north breeze skirted in beneath the hem of the red kimono, a silk hand upon warm skin. The sound of a storm came on the breath of the wind, and still the lightning sang and the clouds danced, and here and there the thunder spoke.

And the woman, not quite a girl, turned slowly and retraced her steps. She smiled one last time at the laughing sky and kissed the mischievous wind and then joined the ranks of her kindred behind stout masonry walls. But now and then her face turned towards the darkened, light-fractured panes, and her she hummed the tune of wind, water, and light and wondered at the brightness of the night.

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