Apotropaia – Bernard Reed

—They were dangerous like a candle in another room. They flickered without anyone seeing.
—He spoke in low whispers like the plague. He followed us across the ocean.
—It is beautiful what you have done here.
—Turn the child, take the door.
—It was on that day in spring that the baby arrived, and the windows were so big with sunlight and all of us wore crowns.
—A snake in the woodpile.
—The man when he came through the door had to lower his head.
—Around a single candle they spoke in whispers.
—He cut his thumb carving his name.
—From sins against the life of man from its very beginnings, deliver us.
—It was on the longest night of the year.
—They’re coming from far away. They leave behind the stories of their birth.
—When she was sick and writhing and the man when he came had to lower his head.
—My grandmother and her sisters took heed of such nonsense, they spoke of it like gossip, and when the little child vanished they were the fastest to pray about it.
—What is it that they say you should do?
—On the morning of the first frost.
—She ran from the edge of the woods and said that there was a man coming through the trees.
—Their eyes on the long road that disappeared.
—Blind man’s bluff and they broke one chair and then another, but they were all smiling.
—Another litter of puppies.
—Soon it’s night.
—The house lit from far away.
—A late meal on a tidy table.
—He lowered his head to enter and she was sick and writhing.
—What would they have thought of us.
—Why have we brought all of our own demons? Why is it always the same disease that craves us?
—It was a warm evening and cool and from the open door she saw the lights of the children. When she got up from the table her apron fluttered. In the doorway she rested her head.
—The wind blew the door, made the windowpanes shiver.
—When death is the only response.
—Seen last praying at his bed, the hair on the nape of his neck.
—It was the same as every winter.
—And those are words you should not speak.
—Were they afraid of a man or a woman?
—In the end it was the child.
—Yellow flowers from the field.
—The obstruction of sight.
—A pebble washed smoothed by the shores of the land where she was born.
—They leave signs everywhere they go, and in return seek only signs that can be seen carved into beams and above the doors of houses.
—There was nothing in the room at all, nothing in the room at all.
—Cold air, cracked fingers.
—No such thing as bad luck. No stain that did not permit the arrival of evil sprits, no verse fluttered open to that did not warn the eyes peeking over the table.
—Their language was already dead.
—At the harvest, sweat and cider. At the wintertide, blood and milk and sweat.
—None made a noise in the night.
—No barking dogs.
—The broomstick that had snapped.
—Old women with their elbows on the table, lips crumpled and eyes drooping.
—Soup and bread and apples.
—Sick and writhing he took her in his arms.
—From the road the house looked warm and small.
—Little blue and white flowers that grew beneath certain trees.
—And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
—They fled the house without first extinguishing the candles, and so when they turned back for a final glance, the windows glowed as though inhabited.
—He left mud on the floor from his boots. With the door wide open for when he returned, the women scrubbed and prayed.
—A wooden box that fell and teeth spilled out.
—Father, we now place our enemies into your hands.
—How delicious boredom would have been, how unlike the idle hours waiting for night to end.
—A cry that broke the morning.
—Engulfed in flame, the haystack.
—From through the trees, the house.
—There had once been voices.
—He took bread, and gave thanks to God in the presence of them all. And when he had broken it, he began to eat.
—Do we recognize the kingship of Christ over all of our possessions?
—In the sunlight, a needle and thread and the children in the window.
—They escaped the evil and the fear of the evil.
—Through the door he lowered his head and he tracked mud across the room. In the bed of hay behind the burlap curtain the girl, sick and writhing, hissed forbidden words. He lifted her in his arms and lowered his head through the door.
—He will find you when you say his name. There is no mention of him that does not invite him into the room.
—Flowers that smell the most in the morning.
—Broke the chairs and burnt as firewood.
—A valley, a forest. A cart along the road.
—Do you remember the creak of the sails?
—The table is empty.
—He arrives, perhaps from a long distance, and you may think he will never make it.
—She was sick and writhing and she laughed at their prayers.
—For whoever did not want to be seen again?
—From the windows we could not see the night, only the reflection of our own candles.
—He lowered his head and did not come back.
—And the candles burned to the bottom without incident.