Self-Portrait, 2019

In a dark field, I am there. Kneeling but the painful rust-colors are visible right above my knees, right where a loose-fitting, black cotton dress meets it. I’ve been in this position many times and for various lengths of time as pressure sits in my hips and back. My hands lay across my lap, my right hand casually lain open as if waiting to receive, the left closed tightly around a fist of seeds,  with a few spilling off to the sides.

Dark brown soil, reflects its moisture under my nails and across the soft glow of my face. Grainy and irritable–but– where it’s supposed to be. In my eyes are contentment and withheld tears. You’ve seen this look before, I’m sure. The sunset drapes over my left shoulder while my head tilts upward in the opposite direction as I pull a fire from my face.

You missed it initially but it’s at this moment you realize all the others. The faces. It starts with walking your eyes up the thick stalk to the right of me, smoothing over each rich petal, one by one. Deep, dark, radiant reds intently shaded into black. Rows of them turned towards me, a feeling of surrounding safety almost.

Until it starts.

My posture has changed, but you can’t figure out just what it is. Slouch? Hunching, maybe? That wasn’t it, since my shoulders sat wide, with my collar bone exposed as sternly as ever. I am sinking. Being absorbed, actually. We both know that resistance won’t help in a situation like this; a sort of black quicksand this soil turned out to be. I begin to relax while it took my legs and feet first, covering a light dusting over my thighs. Felt myself willing let go, to wait for…well, the inevitable.

That’s when the hands rushed across my back…

Written by Michelle Hill

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