Rain, Ghosts & Freshwater Eels

...am I to be locked in this
final uneasiness.
-Robert Creeley, excerpt from The Rain

In all of my adult life, I’ve never been frightened by the thought of ghosts; in fact, I’ve longed to be visited by those I’ve lost. Memory is what I fear and am haunted by.    

Last night, I fell asleep with my head slumped to my right shoulder, and a new bestseller facedown in my lap. I read when I have too much to think about. Memory visits me the same way the scent of rain foreshadows a storm. I’ve always liked storms; they are what they are, and do what they do. No surprises. You know you should be in awe of them and fear them, all at once. Memory is more tricky than that—it’s layered, it’s not transparent--the good, you miss; the bad can visit at any time whether you are open to it or not.

Memory followed me into last night’s dream. I was a child, standing knee-deep in swaying field grass. Fat raindrops fell from gray cloud. In the center of the waving Johnson Grass, was a murky, gentle pond. My small hands were blue and white from clutching a fishing pole. A fluorescent orange floater bobbed underneath the pond’s surface. With anticipation, I gave a quick upward tug, causing pain in the muscle around my shoulders. That sort of pain was prideful. Rising above the water’s fluid skin, was a wriggling, raging freshwater eel. Ready to step on the end of its curled body, to pull the hook out of its mouth, my grandfather warned me to back away. He pulled out a folded blade from his back pocket, extended it in mere seconds, stepped on the fishing line near the eel’s mouth, and severed its head. Stepping forward cautiously, I witnessed its body fight without connection to life.

Even memory has falsities of the truth. In the dream, the rain poured from the air but never created ripples on the water. Not a drop of it was present on my skin; in true memory, I felt the rain within me--still do.

After my grandfather’s death, the eels evolved and grew hands, legs and mouths. There was no one to save me from potential harm anymore. I wonder how many other things I’ve tried to save that I should’ve killed, even if I didn’t understand why. 

Angela M. Carter is an author, poet, novelist, motivational speaker, spoken word performer, visual artist and an advocate/activist. She's the author of Memory Chose a Woman’s Body (unbound CONTENT, 2014), a poetry memoir which spotlights the effects of the silences endured after abuse, neglect and depression. Angela is a 2014 Pushcart Prize nominee, nominee for the 2015 Virginia Library Literary Award (poetry), and has been featured in a multitude of venues, including The KGB Club in Manhattan and Busboys and Poets. www.angelacarterpoetry.com

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