the mud remembers

Daphne Zhu | Art by Mia Liu

My feet breathe a sigh as they sink into the pillow of the mud, leaving a stamp of the finely-carved lines of my soles. 

My knees are tickled by the marsh reeds that have known me since they towered above my head. In their rustle I can hear her voice in the wind, singing, you can’t catch me!, hear my steps chasing her laughter, chasing her until she emerged behind me and laughed, your turn to hide!

My shoes crunch over the pickleweed turning pink at the tips, the sharp bite of the salt still on my tongue from the time we dared each other to swap our lettuce for those succulent stems, the ones she ate like a princess eating cake, the ones I nearly spit on the ground beneath her.

The mud remembers. The mud remembers my trips and falls when my feet were still little, still foreign. The mud remembers my tiptoes as I followed rabbit’s tracks into the grass, my halt. In my eyes or in my mind, faint dents in the ground, the shape of feet that were not mine.

The mud remembers my finger drawings that said hi to a stranger, hi to an already-friend, remembers the stick arrows left lying across the path to show me the piper’s nest tucked away in the tip of the trunk of the elephant that is the marsh. 

The mud remembers the press of my heels as I stood next to her and looked up to where she pointed, then wondered why yesterday there was a faint dot there and today there was not, why yesterday yesterday yesterday it had been brighter, a little brighter.

And I wonder whether the pipers remember two visitors peeking through the reeds with bright, enchanted eyes. I wonder whether the wind remembers her voice like my mind can still hear its song. I wonder whether the mud, the mud that remembers. . .

My feet meet the earth, one, two, one, two. And when I look back, my footprints are gone.