The Moya View

Land of the Yaupon Holly

Image credit: Anne Berry

When the wild-eyed white palomino died, the 
one that ran free among the Yaupon Holly,
little Anne placed a magnolia, the largest she
could pluck, on his mane.

After a summer, Anne returned to his bones,
wearing her palmetto angel wings and ivory.
dress from the Christmas pageant the winter.
before. She collected the last of his spine, and
placed it on the pinecone alter of the
abandoned church that had existed on this
barrier island full of salt marshes for as long as
she had played here.

A synsacrum from a golden hawk of two
summers past laid nearby. And just next to it, on
the dusty seat of the misericord, was the paper
mache donkey’s head she made in crafts.

The light came through the stain glass windows.
red and bloody, exaggerating every feature of
Christ’s last walk—his wounds, thorny crown,
his every tear, shined sanguine rivulets. The
faithful on the mount dined on bleeding bread and
raw fish guts that seemed suspended in the
crepuscular dim. Inside all this, the sunshine
became cardinal moonlight.

From the missing door, Anne heard a monstrous
braying, a demonic parody of her every
screaming nightmare. From the fog outside, a
Sicilian donkey, mangy, muddy, covered in
briars, his ears twitching like errant wings thrust
himself into her brimstone light.

He stumbled haltingly, but not out of lameness.
It was as if an ancient crooked will was coming
to the fore, as if he was trying to dance on a
thin wire suspended above the earth.

Anne remembered the mainland stories she
heard. A circus had gone bankrupt and instead
of selling the animals to a zoo they abandoned all
their flock to this small, but still adequate island,
allowing them the chance to run and live wild
and free.

Anne never remembered, in all her visits, ever
seeing any large bones or hearing any sounds that
resembled roaring lions, trumpeting elephants,
gibbering monkeys or even whinnying zebras-
not even a black and white flash prancing
through the thickening forest green.

Maybe, she, thought this circus was not one of
wild beast? Maybe it was a big top full of once
simple beautiful, domesticated beasts? Beast in
pleasant childhood dreams? Maybe this
braying, hurting, lonely donkey was the last of

The donkey reared and then charged Anne. He
knocked her down, hurting her left shoulder,
shaking off her wings.

He charged her again, hard with his head. Anne felt
herself bruise. She heard her back crack a little. It
was as if the creature was trying to ram every bit of misery and anger into her brain.

She began to worry, lose hope a little bit. Then, she
remembered the inland stories. And suddenly knew
his truth.

“Don’t worry, my friend. I understand”, she gently
said to the beast.

He seemed surprised at the sound of her voice.
He knew it from long ago. The words of a kind

The donkey slowly moved toward her. Its ears
still shaking with fury.

Wincing, Anne got up and faced the beast.

He shuffled back and forth, his hoofs stomping,
trying to root himself in the ground for another

Anne stumbled back, falling down, striking the
misericord, the paper mache donkey head
falling into her lap.

She stood up, faced the beast again, this time
holding the mache donkey head in both her

The donkey did not charge. He was looking at
the donkey head, the palmetto wings, now
completely disassembled— all the scattered
palmetto fronds over the dusty church floor
in front of him.

He knew the meaning of this blessing planted
over two thousand years ago, in the very soul of
his breed- when the gates of Jerusalem swung
open and the people shouted Hallelujahs to him
and the gentle, loving man he carried on his

He felt no choice but to kneel. Like the man,
the weight and joy of her were enough for him
to bear.

Anne climbed onto his back, held his mane tight,
and they trodded slowly back to the shore and
her boat swaying gently in the ebb tide.

“You’ve done well, my faithful friend,” she called
to him as she paddled away.

For twenty summers she would come back alone,
just to visit. On the 21st summer she came back
with a baby carriage and her blessing wrapped
inside. All three would spend the day sitting
under the shade of Yaupon Hollys taking in the
joyous sun.





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