As the dark goliaths approach from above, the lifeless rag beats meekly against its support. It knows in the roil it will be tested. What it does not know is how to prepare itself for this brand of recognition. Those who find themselves beneath it typically offer oblation or receive annihilation. Blowback, so to speak, is not its area of expertise, so it puffs itself up against the gales, but only half heartedly. It twirls around its line in ambivalence, unsure whether to seduce or combat. It wears its entitlement quite obviously, expecting to survive its future regardless of any turbulence ahead.
The inglorious nature of its whipping is not lost on the cloth. Indeed, it knows that many who share its shore have been offered up to it as tribute. It hears the hissing machines and the soggy breaths. It senses the heaving breasts and the salty tears. It is accustomed to such things. It knows also that many of its neighbors have been pushed under for its sake. It sees the gatherings, reads the prayer’s lips, catches the mixed tongues. It knows it has buried not only fathers but mothers and daughters, as well. It is accustomed to such things. And unfeeling it hangs regally, prostrating itself to the giants above, but learning nothing.
He soars in and immediately knows his timing isn’t right. Feet grazing grass before finally landing firmly in mud, he peers around at the gathering trouble. He is at once singularly lovely and peculiarly ill suited to his present predicament. He notices this. He isn’t dumb. So he picks around at this and that, trying to convince himself and everyone else that he is at home in these surroundings. Finding nothing, he swivels his elegant neck this way and that, another coping tactic for what has become a very awkward dinner outing.
The visitor expects he knows where he fits here, or at least he thought he did. As the wind picks up he wonders whether he was right. The visitor did not come here intentionally, the factors that brought him here were completely beyond his control, but he is doing his best to make it work. He doesn’t want to abandon his role in this uncertain system. Sure, he is still tinkering with the finer points of giving and taking, but isn’t everyone? As the stakes of the evening become clear, however, he takes the wiser route and lets the more experienced folk lead, for now.
She plans not to be seen. So far, she’s succeeding. Her turning and darting do little to disturb what others comprehend on the surface. She is, of course, surviving, and her manner of being even allows her to thrive here, but she also avoids participation. It suits her. She knows that if that surface were to ripple, if another sunk in his beak or claw, she would be torn out and then apart.
She knows how this situation will play out. She lives here, after all. She never had a choice. She watches the visitor come and go, satisfying his fleeting interests and assuaging his anxiety, and she looks the other way. She sees the cloth dance to its own desecration, though she never much cared for pomp. She wishes for better at times, but her confines have forced her to be realistic. She has seen many tensions build and some subside. She knows that some will be seen and cherished. But, in her experience, others who make themselves heard are devoured. And so, as the air begins to crackle (not that she minds), she whips her tail in the shallows as a reminder—a gentle call for the veil to descend.
They were the first to bow when awe shook the heavens but will be the last to break under the weight of their fall. Welcoming but never inappropriately so, they beckon the many to them for refuge. Giving but never exhaustingly so, they let themselves lose some for the betterment of many. Among the others, they have a certain reverence and standing, and they bear witness to the hardships of being in dependence. But they know no other way.
Between visitor and resident, cloth and sky, they mediate. Never asking more than the honor of their place, they wave in praise. The neighbors on the shore are comforted at their sight, knowing that their departure is heralded by forces greater than themselves. And in this thin place, great and small dramas find expression and coordination in their silent liturgy.