Time's Memory

Julius Lester

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

From Time’s Memory
I lay within the body of the woman who was called Amina
and I listened to the silences between the beats of hearts that
beat no more and the wind in breaths that no longer breathed.
I saw with eyes that were only sockets in skulls. Though I was
no larger than the twinkle of a star, I already knew that lives
did not consist only of what happened during one’s brief span of
years. No. Each person is the sum of the generations that went
before, generations of people whose names have been forgotten,
whose faces have sunk below where memory can go. Yet those
generations live within everyone, pulsating with each heartbeat
and each breath.
I listened to the blood roaring through her body, and within the
cacophony I found the memories of her brief sixteen years, the
memories of her mother and father, their mother and father,
and their mother and father, and on back to unnumbered time
when no one counted the risings and settings of the sun and
there were no months or years but only Time as broad and
without end as the universe.
But as intently as I listened, as arduously as I searched, I could
not find the reason why I had been conceived. Neither did her
blood tell me where we were being taken nor what I was to do
when I got there.
When Amma, the creator god and master of life and death,
had Amina’s father place me inside the woman, he told me my
name was Ekundayo, Sorrow Becomes Joy. Surrounded by
sorrow deeper than any sea and wider than any sky, I thought
I had been misnamed.