Homeland

by Helen W. Mallon

We smile from opposite sides of a table. You are warm with the pride of your homeland, but no soft figs from your grandmother’s trees lie in a bowl between us. With sadness, you recall the white cloth rippling on the sunny hillsides, and you describe European women lying topless on your beaches. (You have not been there for a long time, and whatever happens disappears.) That sun is the sun of my cold Europe. Our oceans and rivers pull against the land, and the world in its sheath of water is one scarred fist. Very few have seen this, while in every tongue they say it as a creed. They are right that the world is a fist, a stone, a heart, but in every tongue, everyone is afraid. I am afraid of your holy men, and you are afraid of my white men. If here and there are the same, the hedgehog might be an adder, and a tsunami might burst from granite cliffs. I might wake up in your skin. To prevent this we say Self, we say Other. We say, Take a number, get in line. We ache with nostalgia for a homeland that has no soil, lacking even the density of sky. It cannot be secured or raped or burned alive, but this is a secret that everyone guards in order to forget, in order to sit on opposite sides of the same table.

Helen W. Mallon has an MFA in fiction writing from Vermont College. Her e-stories are available at http://bit.ly/HWMRevolution and she writes really short blog posts at http://ftheeiwasateenagequaker.wordpress.com/

How does your extensive work with poetry help and/or hinder you in writing compressed prose pieces such as ‘Homeland’? I can play with the short prose form more easily if I think of it as a poem. Since I am writing a novel, it’s too easy to get hung up on big structure issues when I think in prose terms. I’ve yet to see a flash fiction piece with chapters. Come to think of it, I think I’ll write one!

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