i wanted to follow them, the women in white. i wanted the women
& their billowing dresses to carve a path through the water, ghost-
like silk clinging tight to their curves. by now, they perform the ritual
of our mothers (and the mothers before them) as memory, greeting sunset with hands
laced together. were they born knowing? how to find the foaming sea,
feet kicking sand on the way in. it must be — a knowledge woven into light.
when it’s quiet, i try to replicate them, mimic them. i approach the sunlight,
shuffling out from my studio as if the concrete could part like waves. i kick like the women
before me did, too, except my boot meets the edge of the grass, a sea
of green drowning out my brown. i raise my arms to welcome the day, hoping a ghost
from times past will come to tuck her fingers in mine. her hands,
in mine. she does not. i go out towards the streets with my own ritual,
greeting the thrum of cars as they rush along an ashy street. now my ritual
threads into the bus driver’s, her chirpy ‘good morning’ making flourescent lights
glimmer like a golden ichor. from my seat & out beyond the tinted, hand-
crafted windows, the trees & their upturned branches look like one thousand women,
each stick touching from end to end. in fall, some twigs carry the ghost
of their leaves—the bark still slumps from the weight, even when there’s a sea
filled with reds & yellows & browns circling the earth. this is the same sea
i see when i close my eyes; again, one thousand women and their ritual,
hemlines kissed by the cresting foam of the waves. their toes, gently ghosting
over the thin film of water. their heads, still turned to sunset as light
begins to recede into the horizon’s cradle. homes awaited these women;
warm hearths with fresh kindle for some, empty hands
reaching out in want of mother’s breast for others, but most of their hands
did not flinch. break apart. maybe it’s the lull from the sea,
her last swansong washing over the women
so that they might stay. maybe she felt their ritual
was not yet done, pleading from them one last hymn beneath moonlight.
none of them could say for sure so they stayed all the same, twilight’s ghost
now a veil they slung over lifted shoulders. when finished, they make like ghosts—
one-by-one they go, daughters of the night darting through the sands with their hands
still clasped together. threads are broken when they find their house light,
faint glimmer of flame beckoning them forth until the sea
of bodies has vanished. for the ones still heavy with ritual,
they stay together, head-to-shoulder, hand-to-heart. the women
close their eyes. i open mine to transit center lights, body heavy with their ghosts.
on my way to my transfer, i pass women with eyes glazed over, hands
curled tight around purse straps. i think only of the sea and belonging again as my ritual.
Jasmine Sierra (she/her) is a queer, polyamorous, black woman and graduate of Oberlin College based in Ann Arbor, Michigan. She is currently attending Spalding University for her MFA, and is focused on completing her first, upcoming collection, AVOIDANT PERSONALITY. She has been featured on The Shade Journal, Winter Tangerine, and more. She can be found on Instagram at @sierra_j25. Other links include her portfolio at http://www.sierraj.com/ and her Ello at https://ello.co/sierraj.