what gives this life its unity?
what links the earth, the sea, and sky?
it’s that the world is made of dust,
and so are you and i.

We come upon her on a clear and dry December morning. She is eleven years old, and she is carrying nine Christmas presents in the basket on the front of her bicycle. She needs to deliver them today: the forecast says snow is expected every day for the foreseeable future.

She has eight presents for girls in her class at school. Each is a friendship figurine; she has been working on them all year with her mother and her uncle. Made of smooth wood, each is different in the aspect of friendship they display: laughing, talking, running, eating, crying, reading, riding, and skating. Each one she wrapped herself in colors that mean something to the recipients.

It’s still early on a Saturday morning when she reaches the first house, which is about three blocks from her mother’s. Richelle, the girl who lives here, loves to read; and she comes to the door in a bathrobe and her tight, kinky hair falling all around. She lights up at the sight of her friend.

“Merry Christmas, Richelle!”

“Thank you! Merry Christmas to you, Alma!”

“You can wait and open it on Christmas, if you’d like. I’m going to go deliver a few more.”

Richelle insists that she have a donut before leaving, and they talk some about the latest sci-fi movie (that isn’t as good as the book) – then she heads off.

That morning, she delivered a total of eight presents, had three donuts, a pop-tart, some walnuts, and got four presents herself which she carried towards home in her basket. However, she had one other present to deliver.

She parked her bike at home and walked across the street to her uncle’s house. She rang the doorbell.

He looked at her, surprised. “When did you start waiting at my door? Just knock and come in!”

She held out the last wrapped gift, for him. “Open it. I know you’re leaving this afternoon to go to Aberdeen, so.”

They entered his familiar house, that she had loved for as long as she could remember. Sitting down at the kitchen table, she watched him open the present intently. It was another carved figure, but this one she had done entirely herself. It was a man walking next to a girl on a bicycle.

He looked at her, his eyes shining. “Thank you, Alma. I hope you and your mom have a great Christmas.”

the air is full of dust and smoke
that blow and scatter with the winds;
and every shape we think we see
is o’er ere it begins.


She was the one art major at a table full of engineers. Six girls, three guys, and many, many pitchers of beer.

“Here’s to Christmas break!” her roommate said, holding her glass high. Many mugs were then clinked together.

“What are you doing during the holidays?” one of the guys asked her – who happened to be her particular favorite among the boys.

“I’m going to my mom’s for Christmas, and then I’m going to be back here early to finish the mausoleum carvings.”

“I’ll be working here during the holidays, if you want to grab dinner sometime when you get back.”

“Sure. Sounds like fun.”

“I’d love to see some of your sculptures sometime,” he said, smiling.

“We could go now,” she said. “I don’t think this crowd would miss us much.”

There was snow outside that night, but the fine arts building was only about five blocks away. The walked along, laughing, bright lights strung everywhere along the edge of the campus. When the reached their destination, they shook the snow of their shoes in the lobby and she greeted the security guard with great familiarity.

“Here a lot, are you?” he asked.

“Yes, and at all hours.”

The sculpture studio was up a flight of stairs, she flipped light switches on as she went. They went to a back room where tools for working with marble were. There was the beginning of elaborate sort of raised platform: there was a place for words (currently blank) and a sculpture on top of a man teaching a little girl to ride a bicycle.

“He was my uncle,” she said, her eyes growing wet.

“This is beautiful,” he said taking it all in with eyes, running his hands over the carved marble. “You are an amazing artist,” he said, as though thinking out loud.

She watched him circle the sculpture, and asked “What are you going to do when you graduate?”

“Army Corps of Engineers,” he said, abruptly finding himself face to face with her.

“You can kiss me if you want,” she said.

“I do want,” he answered.

the dust that falls upon the sea,
the silt that washes up ashore,
were particles of grandeur once,
but palaces, no more.

She was six months pregnant, and not at all happy with how her current project was going. She wasn’t sure if it was the difficulty of the subject matter, or her hormones, or what, but she wasn’t about to put out for display a work that looked like this. Off balance. Without life.

This was the biggest commission she had ever received, and the work (to be entitled “Unity”) was to be displayed at the embassy in Bruxelles. She had envisioned the figures in the sculpture very different than they were coming off so far.

She heard her doorbell ring. Putting down the tools, she glanced out the window to see who it was: she didn’t recognize the black car in her driveway. She could tell it was a government car though; maybe a surprise visit to see how the sculpture was coming. She took off her apron, and smoothed her hair in front of a mirror, then opened the door.

The second she saw the two men their, in long dark winter coats, she knew something had gone terribly wrong.

“Oh, God. This isn’t about Bryan –”

from whence we come do we return,
for chance and fate lead where they must:
the cycle that’s humanity,
the randomness of ash
and dust.

His visibly pregnant widow sat, mute in the December air. Eight years they were together; seven before deciding to trying have a child.

A little girl he would never see and who would never know him, except through pictures.

People walked up to her afterwards and said things. They could have been any things, she wasn’t sure. She glanced across the frozen grounds of the cemetery to where she could just see her uncle’s mausoleum, snow gleaming off it’s surface.

Her mother placed a hand on her shoulder, seeing where she was looking. Silently, they broke off from the crowd and headed across the way to where he was buried.

“You try so hard to carve out a life,” she said to her mother, once they had arrived, “but it all ends up just dust.”

“Oh, baby, I know,” her mother said.

“They asked if I wanted to carve something for Bryan’s grave, but, I just can’t.”

“That’s okay,” her mother said. “Come on, let’s get you back inside.”

what gives the world its unity?
what links the earth, the sea, and sky?
it’s that the world is made of dust,
and so are you and i.

It’s a December morning, and a twelve-year-old girl is sitting at a piano and singing.

“That’s beautiful,” her mother said. “What is it?”

“Oh, something I’m writing,” her daughter says. “I’m writing songs for each of my best friends.”

Of course she is.


Author: Sibelius Russell

Sibelius Russell (a/k/a/ Owen "Beleaguered" Servant) lives a life of whimsical servitude -- whatever that means.

One thought on “unity.”

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