The Palapye White Birch

by Tlotlo Tsamaase

We didn’t have an attic or a basement; we had a forest where we stored and gathered those who fell from the star-filled skies. They had bright brown eyes; thick, coarse hair and fragile skin that seemed would tear or break when impure fingers grazed it. They scarred the earth with the bottoms of their feet, leaving cracks and soot marks impressed into the earth.   

Unblemished. Gold-skinned. Dark-skinned. Dust was burned into their veins in streaks of gold, yellow and pink like a summery, sunset flavour. That soot-marked area remained autumn.                 

Cross-legged and wide armed, I’d sit in the blackened scar and scatter the leaves above my head, watching the winter twist the white birches — that wept Marlboro-ruby sap — into crippled forms. When the snow-cold winter reached this darkened earth it died into the wind, or changed course, futilely blowing yellow-tinged leaves in an up-swirl of anger.                    

The glistening sap drip-dropped and drowned into the thick soil which I’d gather and salt my shoulders with, the brown in harmony with my skin. “Tlhongana namm satan,” I’d whisper. Under the dreamy sunlight, a shadow eclipsed the rays of sun that fell onto my closed eyes. He had lips, a nose, ears and winter blue eyes with specks of ocean green; a perfectly symmetrical face. That memory sits vacant in my mind lapping my last breath — a thunderous sound tears open my eyes to a room full of students I used to know. Where am I?

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