Posted by: jolantru | July 1, 2010

Ninth Branch: Anger

Grandmother’s face hovered above me. She had come to see me. Elation surged through me, coupled with relief. “Ah-ma,” I whispered, ghost daggers of pain stabbing into my bandaged side. “Ah-ma.” I really want to go home.

I blinked back tears. Her face disappeared, as if distorted by ripples, replaced by Auri’s.


Heri’s Hilbeh Recipe

Fresh coriander leaves
Peppercorns (black)
Cardamons (black)
Fenugreek seeds
Puree of tomato
Olive oil

Grind peppercorns, cardamons and chillies. Crush garlic (peeled) and mix with the spices. Add in puree, lemon juices, sage and salt. Grind fenugreek seeds and soak in cold water for 30 minutes. The seeds will turn gelatinous. Drain, then add in the spices and chopped coriander. Mix with olive oil until it turns into a paste.


Heri brought some food, including her delicious flatbread and hilbeh. I ate slowly, savoring the flavors. My side still hurt and it hurt even more when I swallowed or tried to swallow. The flatbread was followed with soup to chase it down. The food warmed me, even when I struggled with the pain. Fiona’s shovel almost broke my bones.

While I ate, they argued. Fiona was yet to be found. Farhadi was fuming. Heri tried to calm him down with gentle words. Josh and Auri expressed their anger unabashedly.

“What is wrong with her?” Josh was saying, his eyes flashing, his skin flushed with his agitation.

Farhadi suddenly became silent, if not solemn. “She is angry with the world,” he said and left it at that.

“That is not a good answer,” Josh retorted back hotly. Good kind Josh. Gentle Josh. He has not encountered such violence in his childhood. He lived a sheltered existence.

I felt sorry for him.

I spoke up, breaking into the awkward silence. “I saw her… wrapping a leather strip around blue glass. When we were travelling across the plains, we saw this tree…”

Heri exclaimed, “Oh!” She said something else in her own dialect, her face grim.

“You said ‘wishing tree’, Heri…” Auri said quickly. For our benefit, I realized.

“An inbetweener custom,” Heri answered, her eyes sad now. “We hang our prayers on trees.” She turned to Farhadi. “Please look for her, my husband. Look for her!”

I stared at Heri, at the tableau in front of me. In later sun circles, I would often go back to this scene in my memory and wish more could be done for Fiona.


They found Fiona at the bottom of the wishing tree. She was slumped against the gnarled trunk, her sightless eyes fixed on the glass offerings. Her right hand was tightly clenched around a glass shard. They buried her close to the caravansari, with a tree sapling planted on her grave.

For a week, the caravansari mourned. Heri lit candles. Farhadi sang softly with his lute.

To make matters worse, Auri became taciturn with Josh refusing to speak to her. It was extremely unpleasant.

I wished it to stop.

When the glass shards remind one of memory
Of pain, of pleasure
Of lacerations marking the skin like
Ley lines.

I will hang the glass shards up, let the sun
Catch the colors in glory:
Wishes to the sky,
Pain grounding back to the earth.




  1. Compelling.

    And intriguing.

    My mind is now spinning all sorts of reasons for Fiona being the way she is (was?) and what might have been able to help her.

    • Thank you for your comments. I might end up writing something about her, when the book ends and the bonus stories appear. 😉

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