Stone Telling

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by Eliza Victoria

A tree sits in the wasteland of my mother's memory. The tree faces a river in her hometown, on the shore where nothing else grows. Like a curious child, it sits watching the boat that approaches it tonight, with the moon full and the stars slowly disappearing behind clouds like gossiping neighbors. On the boat is a sow, squealing like a prisoner. Someone lives in the tree. The tree-owner has many faces, hiding behind a window, in the crowd at the market, in the shadow of your bed. The sow is payment for a request, and the tree-owner always answers with an empty boat, floating down the river back to its sender.

How innocent the tree must look in the morning, like breakfast, like ourselves in that cold hour when we are lost in someone else's limbs, and we have yet to think of sacrifices. In a dark room, a mother-to-be sees blood between her thighs, and her husband runs out with a bolo, urging the shadows to face him like a man. This is not a death; this is an empty boat bobbing on tiny waves, a sow squealing itself to silence, an enemy masterminding his grief. The tree is useful that way, when you are blind with rage or fear, when you need to trace causality. How random is loss, and how we ache to have someone to blame, or to keep us safe. In any given time in this city, a sacrifice skids across the concrete sea, wraps itself around a tree that dares stand in the way. I send a sow across the river for the safety of everyone I love, and wait for the boat to return.

Eliza Victoria lives in the Philippines. Her fiction and poetry have appeared in various publications, including Stone Telling, The Pedestal Magazine, High Chair, Story Quarterly, and the Philippine Speculative Fiction series. Visit her at

Photography: Portal, by Jimmy Hilario.