Nights of Juanita by Tiffany Osedra Miller

Nights of Juanita

After attending two funerals in one night celebrating the lives of two, kind hearted, small island people, young, wandering Juanita, wearing only her white night gown, entered the Bacchanal Garden, where she picked a sugar apple from the sugar apple tree and ate it. Its sweet juices dripped down her chin and stained her night dress. Juanita – nourished by the sugar apple’s sweet magic – within the eternity of one melancholy hour – grew tall enough to put her arms around the moon. 

First, she held the moon to her breast as if she were its teenaged mother and felt the serene moonlight of its music. Then, Juanita whispered to the moon, as if the moon didn’t already know, that it was heaven’s bless-ed instrument. So enchanted was Juanita that she shook the moon gently until it burst open like a piñata, and sleeping brown, red-boned and high yellow angels fell out of it. Cacao-Colored, Cherub choirs, wearing red and royal blue robes and rubbing their eyes awake, began dreamily marching along the celestial roads, playing trumpets, mandolins and steel pans. The cherubs marched along with other Bacchanal angels adorned with mango, cherry and plum-colored wings. 

“Oh, that’s where you all are!” Juanita cried out to the angels leaving the moon. “Moonlit, Heavenly Family,” she continued, “I know I’ve never asked for much because I never thought myself worthy, but I, in my grief, am in desperate need of angels. So if one of you dear angels – or two – could be so kind as to grace me with your constant company – and love –”

Startled, nearly all of the half-awake angels spread their matted wings and flew back up to the moon, where it once again hung in space. Many more angels flew beyond the moon and back into the heavens, where they nestled inside the comfort of stars and other celestial bodies that dangled in the sky like ornaments. 

One breathtaking, joy-faced angel as bright as an altar candle on Christmas remained behind and gazed at Juanita with the light of unconditional love. But Juanita couldn’t yet receive the light. The angel was so familiar yet foreign to Juanita. The angel held maracas with which she shook to make music. And even though Juanita felt saddened and abandoned by the other angels, she felt a forgotten joy inside her begin to stir.

“Dear angel. What is your name?” Juanita asked.

“Juanita,” the angel replied and opened her wings. The heavens filled with Juanita’s music. And Juanita, the angel, in the middle of the empty celestial street, immediately split in two. She was left with one wing and an angel man as handsome as a soldier for God appeared beside her with the other wing attached to his back. He wore a sad yet glorious expression on his face. He was also playing maracas.

“And that angel is the Johnnycake Angel,” Juanita, the angel said. And sad, angel-faced Johnnycake performed a bow so deep that he ended up standing on his sleepy head, wiggling his legs around like a piece of deep-sea coral.

“And since both of your parents have gone on to paradise, Juanita,” Johnnycake began, “we will be your parent-angels, guiding you through life, offering love, comfort and protection.” Juanita wept. 

A shimmering, coconut-colored cherub materialized amidst a constellation of stars. He held a trumpet to his pursed lips and played heaven’s sweetest calypso. In the Bacchanal Garden, where her beloved parents were buried earlier that night, Juanita rejoiced and sang an aria of Calypsonian Hallelujahs to accompany the cherub’s music as he and his cherub-song faded away into the heavens. Juanita returned to her original height amongst the small, enchanted sugar apple trees, yet felt much taller and grander. 

Together, the two angels each fluttered their single wing over the dark, desolate, narrow pathways that had taken over Juanita’s beloved, Bacchanal Garden ever since her parents were laid there to rest. To Juanita’s delight, this gesture from the angels opened up the pathways as wide as boulevards – with sandy roads leading to larger parts of the small island that her grief had made her forget – as well as winding, tropical roads she never even knew existed. 

Tiffany Osedra Miller is a Caribbean-American literary and visual artist from the Bronx where she teaches art and poetry workshops for children and senior citizens. Her work is forthcoming in The Threepenny Review and in her new monthly lyric essay column, “Goatwater”, hosted at Palette Poetry.

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