The Chopping Block

Image: Benjamin Balázs

On the chopping block, her long curls, luminous in the room darkened room. A gleaming knife nearby.

On the chopping block, not only her hair, symbol of beauty and femininity, but also her hands, hands that had held babies mere breaths after birth, and lovers, and loaves of steaming bread, and once, a wounded bird, its body quaking in her cupped palms.

On the chopping block, not only her hair and hands but her papers, the pages and pages where she’d borne witness to the passage of time in a place where to measure time at all required focus, a fierce but undetectable defiance and refusal to lose track of the outside.

On the chopping block, along with her hair, her hands, and her papers, all of the flowers she’d grown as a form of wild contraband. She didn’t know if she could bear to watch their petals fly, severed from their heads and bodies, color strewn in all directions that some other woman would be told to sweep up later, to return the space to its immaculate state, revealing nothing of what was to happen here where her hair, her hands, her words, and her garden all lay in wait on the chopping block.

When no one was looking, she caressed its rough surface, planting her palms wide across the grain, the rings, feeling to see if the wood still had even the faintest pulse.

She closed her eyes and listened with her hands. Her neck ached due to the strained position of her head, but the more she tuned into the chopping block, the less she felt the pain of her own body.

The chopping block was drinking from her hands. She felt the movement of energy transferring as if in sacred agreement, as if her body and what remained of the tree’s body had been traveling towards each other for eons and now here they were.

On the chopping block, she was sure the cuttings suddenly brightened; she swore their color intensified the weaker she felt.

She heard a hushed voice just outside the door — low tones, the “s” sounds penetrating the thick wood. She pressed her left ear more firmly against the wood and directed her listening downward rather than outward. Harder and harder she pressed, until everything but the deepest, barely discernable warble disappeared.

Her breath slowed and a sensation of such peace flooded her limbs that for a moment she feared she might cry out as if in orgasm. A tiny gasp escaped her mouth. The heart of the world burned in her eardrum and it was then that she knew her work was complete. She’d given everything and would be gone long before the men came to finish her.

They didn’t know it; they’d look into her piercing eyes and feel something like satisfaction, something superior, something smug. But none of it could hurt her now. She was hollow and the chopping block held her secrets now, her life force, her legacy.

The chopping block looked like a stump, but was really an altar.


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