You give everything to the river and it cleanses you wholly.

The people stir with slow anonymity; in their mud-crust houses, they swell and shift in their womb-like burrows, push aside pillows of straw. Their hands are sticky, and their mouths seek without meaning. They know the world is out there; they just don't know how large or how small, how rapacious or how predatory. They live all their lives like moles and worms--- in the closed-in comfort of darkness, of minerals, cupric clay laid thick like cakes over their lids.

But on cross days, they walk on two legs. They glorify a bipedallic new fortune, a modish hominal origin. They go to the river and it cleanses them wholly.

And when they ascend to the surface, wriggling past hours of sickly hot mud, they bring with them their icons and baubles. They bring their bows and oars and crocodile teeth, their midnight oil and paws and skins. They stand at the river's edge and listen to it sing. When they bring their lips together, it is to mimick this anthem.

You give everything to the river and it cleanses you wholly, the village loon digresses. You give everything, and you see All.

But no one knows what All is, and they are not so foolish, so impractical or so blatantly gullible as to give up their most venerated knickknacks and doodads and whatnots to something which may not exist. So they stand at the river, charmfeet swimming on the shore of sea-green grass, shifting in their indiscretion, arms weighed down with bundles and bundles of florid myrrh. Not sure what to do.

The sun rises high and still they stand at the river. Crystalline excrement beads their brows; diamonds nestle into their foreheads, the scant line of their alopecic scalps.

Can you not kneel? asks the loon, who skin has turned transparent turquoise, whose hair is now like emerald ermine, whose skin is all royal fins and scales.

Can you not kneel? Can you not cringe and give?

But the people do not hear. The noise is transparent. They stand at the river and stare.

The sun creeps past its peak.

Children, grown bored with standing around, are the first to wander off. They leave like spider-offspring, catching a wave of wind. They leave to play their gladiatrix games.

And then people simply start disappearing. Dissolving into the air, becoming part of the condensation. One minute extant, the next simply gone.

Dusk, and the riverside is now empty. Ice crystals dandle in the grass and slip down beneath the fragrant blades to tempt the marble-smelling earth. Even the loon is gone, though no one knows where.

By nightfall, the river has turned to permafrost sludge. A thick gnat-infested fug has levitated over it and spread across the lakebed terrain. And it delves into the ground, infiltrates the people and the pent walls of their mud-crust houses. It crawls into their mossy ears and sinks its gums into their dreams; it poisons their lives and they roll over in their sleep and don't care.

You give everything to the river and it cleanses you wholly.

But the river is starving and so you get nothing.


A/N: This morning, instead of attending church with my family (generally the most-dreaded practice of my weekend), I sat in Starbucks, ordered a caramel macchiato (which I've never had before) and wrote this. And was mistaken for someone named Jennifer.