The Ring of Harvest

by Erika Byrne-Ludwig

Lena stood next to the river. How she arrived there she couldn't say. An unconscious move on the fringes of her reality. A bulrush plant was stalking up. She felt being stared at by it. She could see two holes for eyes in its spike. Some years back, she would have picked it, it among all sorts of summer grasses: a harvest of lime-green leaves and motley flowers. Both her arms, then full and flushed, would embrace and press them against her breast like a small child, their silky hairs tickling her chin.

Lena had no wishes to clip any plant. Instead she fiddled with her wedding ring, loose on her thin stem-finger, her gaze fixed in the smog of her thoughts. Her figure a sharp, angular sculpture; shoulder blades: flashes of lightning; rounded knuckles and wrist joints: marbles ready to roll down.

Now her arms were covered with a different harvest, still pigmented: colours of wasted words and blows. Her bones had tried to resist the force of the gale applied to them. She would now let the grasses around her grow, tall and thick. They might feel strange held in lame arms.

She continued twiddling with her ring, taking it on and off, counting her river-plant years. There hadn't been many, fewer as time went on. In the sunlit ripples below, she saw some sort of tall, grotesque figure. Rubber boots, two large vases with in each a sickly stem. Shirt and skirt floating around a wooden body as if drying on the line. Hair raising like pomaded spikes in the breeze, uncovering discoloured truths.

The ring finally let go and left the river creature as she used to be called. She heard a plop, looked down, saw a glow twirl against the bulrush, its eyes now closed. Her ring was slowly sinking towards the muddy bed, onto the decomposed harvests.