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From Gold and Poison







        The birds were bored there.  They tolerated boredom for a short while, then flew elsewhere. 

The snake was annoyed that it had to remain, but was too bored itself to even hiss in disapproval.  It simply produced the required amount of poison in resentful silence.  The grass spread a green mosaic every year among the rocks, then disappeared again after aging into yellow, then drying and being dismembered by rain.  On occasion a spring tried to well up, but quickly fizzled off to greener pastures.  The wind habitually swept through the branches of the one tree in the valley, a vain tree or else a well-meaning tree, for it blossomed in delicate pink each springtime, but then became too desolate to bear fruit by summerís end.  Rain and snow came and went indifferently, always more than ready to be drawn out again into mist and clouds that moved on.  In such a place the wind and the rain never cared much to mingle and make music with the tree which would elsewhere have served as their harp.

        Sound was unnecessary there.  It disappeared with the last bird that flew away and simply never returned, so that silence became intrinsic to the valley.  The seasonal ritual of grass on the ground and blossoms and leaves in the tree was also unnecessary, but somehow it continued.  Once in a great while the wind brought the seed of a flower or a blooming weed, which would remain a whole summer.  Then it would die from neglect and from the same loneliness which the one tree miraculously survived year after year.

        No one had been there to listen in the old days to the impatient sounds of living creatures trying to survive in ways they were accustomed to, despite the barren atmosphere.  And no one listened to the silence that settled after they left.  The only life remaining in the valley was rooted life, and the life of color, because the sun could not refuse to set even there and to throw the evening shadows into patterns.  And then the sun could not refuse to rise again.  The sun was the measure of days, though no one measured, and the steady force that kept coaxing the tree into blossom and the blades of grass into their seasonal round.  The sun was one friend left where no friend was wanted. 

        In the morning it rose to touch the hair of the silently kneeling goddess.  It dried the dew from yellow strands that fell down to the ground in whatever way the wind or the rain brushed it.  Her yellow hair was the one thing that had never faded inside the ring of black burnt earth where she knelt by the rock in the center.  Except for her hair, she was as gray as the rock itself.  For she did not move out of the way of rain or hail or snow, and she did not move out of the shadowless noon of summer days, and so her once red dress had faded to gray.  The light in her blue eyes had long become dull.  And the once golden bowl in her hands was corroded from poison and covered with a thick crust of ashes.  Even the goddessís arms blended in with the gray of the rock where she rested them holding the bowl.  She was herself much like a rock.  Only her long hair was yellow, and when the wind willed it so, it moved, and when the sun willed it so, it glistened.

        She was not blind, yet she saw nothing.  The sun and the grass and the tree were in vain.  She was not deaf, but heard as little as she saw.  The gray in her vision and the silence in her ears were not her fault.  But had she been asked, she would most likely have wished for things to be exactly as they were.

        Given the dullness, she knew surprisingly well who she was.  Even here in her timeless silence, she often remembered the name by which they had called her, Sigyn, the Raincloud, the True and the Tender.  There was no possibility of being mistaken: she was Sigyn.  It grieved her to know that, and to know also how little it mattered, her being Sigyn, her being immortal, her being at all.  Years came and went, but eternity did not grow smaller.  She was there to kneel by the rock until the end of the world.  Even that, the end of the world, had proven to be a great disappointment.  For the world had ended.  And then it had begun again.  And here she was, still or again, no matter.