Memories cling like resin to my tidy life:
The mole on mama’s chin;
Bangs that landed two inches above her brow
A temper that flashed when I rubbed her the wrong way
She is attached to me by an umbilical of wounds.
The white dress she stitched for my Phi Mu Pledge Dance
The goodbye she waved to the back of a Greyhound bus
“I wrote you everyday in my mind” she scrawled on that last birthday card.
A single ovary produced a daughter who never bore fruit.
Who left her never to return.
More than a container of seeds.
I trace the lines on my palm and the furrow between my brow.
I revisit scars that map a lifetime.
I touch the mole on my chin.
Once removed only to return.
(After “How to Love Your Mother After She’s Dead” by Lidia Yuknavitch)
I first met Daddy just before he took his first drink. His oldest sister Irma was feeding the rabbits in the side yard and her husband Mackey gave him a sip of his beer. Later Daddy would give his only son Mackey’s name and his first drink.
I first met Daddy when he was in the army stationed on Okinawa sitting in front of a tent while everyone else stood. “Never stand up when you can sit down. Never sit down when you can lay down.” I learned a lot from Daddy.
I first met Daddy when he stole a Ford from the Naval Base in Norfolk Virginia. He didn’t really steal it. But I thought he had because he’d brought home the silverware embossed with US Navy and he never returned it. My sister still has the knives and forks.
I first met Daddy when he stretched out on the grass that covered Mama’s grave and said “Bury Me Now” and I took a picture. 10 years later to the day he crawled in next to her. I wore a big black hat and a red dress. I buried him in red pajamas. I wanted him to be comfortable.
….I have found the suitcase open, collecting snow,
still holding your vade mecum of the infinite,
The Lost Suitcase by Carolyn Forché
It would be nice to have a handbook that contained everything I ever needed to know about anything. I once had a Brownie Scout Handbook. Then a Girl Scout Handbook. Then, much later, a Big Book. But the only thing I could carry with me all the time was “a great big Brownie smile” and I often forgot to put that on. It’s amazing how much stuff I carry around now. I’m retired now but when I was working I carried:
clear nail polish
toothpaste and toothbrush
bills to pay
return address labels
Gym entry card
Diet Dr. Pepper
John left with his keys and a wallet. Why is my life so complicated?
There are no trains
The only roar comes from the ocean
and it never stops
There are no triathlons
but fishermen stand in the surf for hours
and they never stop
There are no all night diners
but there are rainbows, sunshine
and the wind never stops
It’s late in the day and
no words have lined up in a way that pleases me.
to speak of.
But I judge myself by my intentions.
and I’ve done no damage
to speak of.
Notice. Your past comes back to you now
on a warm, moist breeze
cloaked in the smell of clematis
illuminated by the noon day sun.
Your past that you shared
with strangers who have forgotten your name.
Memory is like breath:
I can’t live without it.
When memories are as transparent as dreams
and intentions as flimsy as those memories
and emotions dart here and there like spoiled children
and the right words never come,
I still begin to write without knowing
where the words will lead me
and when the words will stop
Outside my window a gum ball tree
Seed of Aprils past
Reminder of brown army blankets
Ah! That pigment that blossomed even as she followed her sister down the birth canal.
A 5 o’clock shadow darkened her blood smeared face
before Irish cleaned it with a mother’s tongue
gently with an instinct that eclipsed learning.
The nose grew. The color darkened.
Now a lump of coal.
The black so black
I fancy I can see my face reflected there.
But it is only a nose.
A nose to point her way from whelping to weaning.
A nose that sneaks beneath the bed skirt to worry the dust bunnies.
A nose that pushes sand before it as it tunnels past the tideline to the Bay.