I told Baby, “Don’t go back there ‘hind them woods where that creature live.” I told Baby not to go but she went over yonder one strangely cold summer day, ’round June, after I’d made her self a lunch of buttermilk biscuits and collard greens– Baby never liked meat too much. Said it tasted like sin to her. Said if God ate sin, it’d taste like meat with all the seasonings and cooked to perfection. Make you feel heavy afterward. Fill you up. It’d nourish you, but at what cost? Baby said, “Lady Mama, that ol’ meat a little too heavy for my soul. Don’t matter if it tastes good if I got to ask forgiveness later.”
Anyway, I’m just a-yippin’ and a-yappin’ like folk got time to hear a ol’ woman talkin’ bout fanciful things like a thoughtful child.
Imagination they called it. Tuh– imagination. If they knew the things I know I done seen they’d say I ‘magined it. But I told Baby what I saw. Warned her ‘cordin to just what I know I seen with my own eyes: that creature live ‘hind them woods. Out there by a little bog that ain’t got no life. Not even a fly piss in those waters. That’s how you know there ain’t no life. Flies, nasty things, they follow dead and decaying things. The nasty part of living is dying. Or so we think.
That creature creepin’ in the brush lives by a place that ain’t got no life. He thinks he knows what we don’t, us folk who follow life. Naw, the creature think life is just a part of death. He think from the moment we’re conceived we’re settin’ ourselves up to die. But what a creature that don’t live know ’bout life? You’d think not a damn thing. But Baby told me different.
Baby went in them woods. Sho’ did. Almost didn’t come back when her body did. I ‘spected something when she absentmindedly spooned some scrambled eggs in her plate one morning. She would’ve eaten ’em too if I hadn’t shouted. Ain’t nothing in the world could make my Baby forget her strict diet.
You could tell she’d seen something wretched. Something that’d make you sing Amazing Grace or the Lord’s Prayer. Or put the needle on a Patti Labelle record, especially if you seekin’ deliverance from that thing you saw that your mind won’t let you unsee. But your heart know it.
Your heart got more eyes than vessels and ventricles. It sees things out our souls which are hidden when looking out our bodies. And Baby’s heart never found its way inside her little chest while she formed in the womb. At least, that’s what I told her when she asked what made her so special. She never asked again when she came back from ‘hind them woods.
Her heart sees with everything its got, that’s why she took a moment to return to her body. Her little heart sees with ears and lips and hands and nostrils and thoughts. Lawd, that creature put a number on my Baby! If only she was a little more heart-blind, she might not have suffered so. But that’s just it, isn’t it? The heart sees with everything you got. Whether you want it to or not. And Baby saw, bless her heart, she saw that creature and almost didn’t come back.
When she finally did return to herself, she told me something that almost made me drop like a fly right where I stood.
“Lady Mama,” she always called me, “I shouldn’t have gone down there. I should’ve listened to you.”
“It’s alright Baby. I’m just glad you finally came back.” I held her tighter to my bosom then.
“Lady Mama?” she inquired softly.
“Yes, Baby?” I replied as I skwez her real tight.
“That creature…it don’t mean nobody no harm. And it’s a wretched creature to look at, if your heart stays hidden away. But when it doesn’t, when your heart finds its way outside you, that creature looks just like God.”