The truth can sometimes appear as surreal as a ghost in the attic. This prose poem is loosely based on what happened in a village many decades ago on a hot summer day, with poetic license, but the kernel of which remains quite unchanged. Consider it an exorcism of stories that need to find their way to poems.
It always felt like black and white back then in the sepia memories in photos, except in stories my mother told me about kaleidoscopic ices and green bottles of sodas with a marble in the neck. Roads snaked around the church in iron tinted blood and there were not many wheels raising dust. That summer day, everyone ruminated on the sultry weather, lounging on a grass mattress or a chair, in the deep recess of a cavernous room somewhere.
My Beautiful, you walked like the sole flower of the tropics that lonely road where the wooden windows shut people in and the Suns fiery digits out. Your cotton dress sheathed around your hips, your soft breasts and everything glinted white in the sun, even the black cross perched on the grotto. They used to begin the stations of the cross there for the march up to the chapel on the hill. It's strange that prayers never linger long near open spaces or in closed hearts. There were three of them that day the sun blotted out the landscape. Drunk on the fervour of youth, the dregs of local ferment, hallucinating of angels in a sacred space and you appeared. People noted in retrospect that you were very pretty as prima facie evidence.
You may have tarried a while for you knew them. Everyone knew everyone in the village and their dead ancestors. Perhaps they catcalled or slunk in a phrase that clamped lead on your feet, sunk to a pit in your stomach and sweated your palms. Did the banter get too risqué ? Your dress was hemmed to the length of the times. Your hair coiffed that way too. Did you smile? Or they were only drunk on desire, the echoes of prayers that weren't truly there and you answered in kind.
A strange place for the carnal, up the steps to the grotto, all around roads, large houses, closed wooden doors, your screams muffled in the sun, the refectory window around the bend, behind where they kept the hearse, even the padre could not hear you in the fugue of his siesta but the gate to the cemetery further up was in full view and it anticipated your arrival in an afternoon conviction of faith. After they had their way, what did you say to warrant a passage of soul, was it the shock of the known or was it the shame of the village marvelling at your naked brown body up the many steps to a white grotto?
Your lifeless body lay limp and faithless in fellowmen, for voices would be silenced soon, for only God was your witness and they hadn't thought to call Him to the witness stand. No one knew who raped you, for those youth provoked fear and that drives souls to silence. Perhaps it was penitence, for one met death on the way to a suicide. Another was pulled in by lotus stems in a lake to murky depths. A third lives but in the end everyone dies.
Edit: I used the term ‘Grotto’ because no special term exists for the huge cross placed near a church, atop a whitewashed sculpted dome, a common sight in Goan villages. There’s no specific word in my native language either. A real ‘Grotto’ dedicated to Mary also exists around many churches and looks quite similar.