Clouds in the Street  Gina DiPonio



This medina, maybe it’s not so special, but it’s mine. I’ve seen the dust rise from my brother’s running kicks and the broom-swept clouds of my mother’s strength gather in the street’s breeze and settle in a slow, thin sheath over the pathways and the courtyards of this village. I know this place like the soul of a friend. I know the fire-colored mountains from which these rocks were taken—the rocks that built the streets, the walls, the gates. I know the lava-like settling of the mortar between the stones, and these fingers have run across its rises and dips each twenty years of my life. Hundreds of stones I know.

I know the weight of a skull. The weight of a rock dislodged from it. The near weightlessness of the blood on the rock. Thick and yet not sticky. Alive but dead.

When you need a stone to throw, look for one with weight. Larger rocks are better—smaller ones do less. And when they are both large and in some way sharp—jagged—the better they are.

Such rocks can be thrown up, lofted high, so that it is hard to know where they are thrown from. The dust lifts around the quick-turning victim. He stops and starts and turns, and it rises more, burning his eyes, choking him in a cloud. And then my rocks can come quicker, straighter, with sharper, fearless aim.

My fingers know one rock best, the one from the center of our kitchen. It is a large stone, smooth where its face made our floor. Mother’s soft footsteps have polished it, the oils of her skin, the spurts of her vegetables, shined it, throughout her life, throughout mine. Today, I had to knife away at the mortar around it. I had to dislodge it from our kitchen center, move my mother aside and dig and pry and move the earth around it until the stone, scratched from my furious jabbing and swiping, was revealed to me in its fullness. It was the first time that I had seen the other side of it and known then the luck of its sharpness.

This rock is heavy, good and heavy enough. I hold it in my hands. It is solid weight, solid mass. A bone will crack before this rock. It is God.

I did not close my mother’s eyes, but left them open to watch me move in close to kiss her cheek, then I held the stone in front of her green-brown eyes, mystical eyes, and rose to my full height, carrying it, our stone, with both hands, hugging it to my chest, and walking out the door to find the man who deserves it. You cannot bomb a village and not feel the weight of its fall. That much I will show him.