Poppies mostly, though also cowslips, daisies, buttercups and below, tiny wild orchids; yellow and brightly purple like buried jewels.
But the red poppies dominate. Their black hearts are mirrors to mine, which is white, which is ashes.
I’m staring wide-eyed at the scene, my lips are bloodless, my tongue is dry, I tried to swallow and there is a hint, perhaps, of the return of saliva. But everything else is old bone dry. Only wet earth smells down in the stalk line. I’m hunting the scent, now, as I stand, poised. I’m ready to fall into the sea of colour, only… something holds me back.
A cloud has happened across the sun, and the shadow is a reminder that this will not last. Summer is fleeting at best on this taciturn island and today the cusp of autumn is visible in spite of the bright flowers.
I’d like to fall headlong, but I’m not going to go through this again. So I watch the rows of bobbing heads and hold my line. It’s not so hard now I have the trick of it, I see. I am not as fearful after all. The air feels cool under the cloud and when the rain comes I’m ready, I lift my face in welcome. Drops splash on my cheeks like the tears I’ve not been able to conjure for the three long months I’ve waited. Three months of staring into the horizon, three months watching this field turn from gold to red, three months and not a drop of moisture. But my heart opens as the rain descends. I blink and there are drips on my lashes and I’m aware that they are salty tears, and they are mine. Relief runs through me, I feel its release course through my veins.
This. I have been waiting for this. This rain dripping softly down and wetting the parched soil, creeping into the seams of my clothes and dampening my skin. Seeping inside my chest, touching the ashes and reanimating my timid ticking heart. I feel its beat surge, push blood, push tears from my eyes. They fall and mingle with the rain. They crash onto the poppies and the flowers. They feed the roots and the small things that crawl.
After a time the rain eases and stops altogether. I realise I can stop waiting now. The horizon is brighter, the air smells sweet, and there is no longer anything to fear. All there are are the rows of the dead and the ghosts that are gone and the dripping of the rain from the petals of the flowers in the field.