When the Waters Came

 

When the waters came, we sat in the twilight and listened to the voices. “Love” and “dear” and “forever” rode the evening air like birds in sure flight over a pathless sea.

 

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When the waters came, we drew close and touched hands. Blood rose to meet blood, pulsing, quickening.

 

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When the waters came, they came like the welling of bittersweet sorrow, like some faint memory emerging from a fathomless depth, silent, inexorable, and in starlight they had the luster of pearl, of waking power gently overlapping the broken but enduring land, making all form formless, rising and rising and finally converging with the sky there on the vanishing horizon, so that we grieved for the old tree that sheltered us at the edge of that rainswept pasture, and we grieved for that special stone our child clutched in his tiny hand, and we grieved for the nameless stream we crossed that day, you wild with laughter as I handed the boy across, your eyes dancing, raindrops like tears of joy on your face, “It’s all right, darling, I’ve got you, I’ve got you,” all this back when the world was young, continent newly riven from continent, with volcanoes flaring like beacon fires in the distance, with forests primeval and fenceless grasslands and myriads of herds and numberless flocks taking wing and blotting out the sun, everything radiant with promise, nothing to be forgotten, not ever, in the days before the waters came.

 

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Yet the waters came. They came without surcease, without pity, and when the drear gray of dawn arrived, its frail light left our hearts cold, neither fearful nor hopeful but for the moment merely resigned, resigned to the way of things, how they come and go, arriving in Sunday dresses and Christmas stockings and parade floats and birth announcements, then departing with a sigh and a shrug, unsure what to think or feel, what it meant, and thus resigned we gathered a few belongings, old photographs and locks of hair, leaving all the rest to lie as they lay, and we set out, resolute, together, the ground rising ahead of us, the top of the hill closer with each step, until at length we stood on its crest, staring first in amazement at what had just moments earlier been purest mystery, then looking shyly, steadily, boldly into each other’s eyes.

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