Uncle grasps the leader’s mallet, grief evident in every groove of his weathered skin. His eyelids fold under the heaviness of it and he begins to sway to a music only heard in his spirit. Slowly he drops the mallet’s head to the drum’s belly and it gives a low bellowing moan. Again and again he strikes the dried hide. A rhythm emerges. Next to him Aunt lets her mallet fall to echo on the drum, shoulders hunched and eyes burnished with tears. Encircling the drum, the rest of us follow their lead with harmonizing rhythms. A synchronous melding of spirit beats.
Raw, barren, this landscape of sorrow blinks bleakly in our murky eyes. A single touch could splinter our chapped skin. Swells of music crash and recede. Bellows of the drum wax and wane. Emotions rise and fall.
I’ve forgotten the clock; for just a moment I’ve forgotten to abide in time.
We beat – the drum beat – the heartbeat – our beat. We don’t command our bodies to respond, they reply of necessity. The spirit calls and the flesh moves. The weight of death we mourn is laid to the drum. We let our spirits dance – a dance without skin or bone, a dance of tears born of an unearthly pain, a dance for all we must tell though we don’t have the words.
We step into forever. We create a beat that heals us, that lights a flame at the black maw of our loss. We beat. Again and again we beat. Together we beat a pulse back into our flagging hearts. We hope. Again and again we hope. Together we hope for a light in tomorrow’s sky.
We beat for the unspeakable, we beat for the intangible, we beat for the invincible. We beat to breathe, we beat to love. We beat to touch the world of the living once again.