We admired ancient Egyptians.
Painted boxes, families who cared enough to draw birds,
carry cakes and ale to their beloveds.
We did not cremate her.
We buried her like a sacred Egyptian,
tucked in relics: a lavender heart, garnet ring, Celtic holy card,
the papyrus of her poetry, photos of her Depression childhood.
When the parakeet died she found just the right shoe box.
She folded its blue feathers in with toys and seeds,
painted popsicle sticks green and formed them into a crucifix.
All that winter we waited.
In spring the potato vine blossomed
and stretched over our bird grave.
She believed in rituals — even miracles,
spoke of ancestors clawing sod with bare hands,
turning over blackened spuds.
Their larders bare, nothing to fortify them but prayer.
Nightfall and she waves goodbye from her lace-curtained window.
I hold the wave in my sight, round a corner of the city street.
A family custom to gesture from windows.
A sadness at parting, a not-letting-go.
The tinsel draped fir tree, cranberry garlands and bulbs hidden deep.
My fingers comb the nap of her red velvet couch.
The click of my heels and the tock of her Black Forest clock.
Melted, disfigured choir boy candles sputter out their flame.
Her face shows in tatted, round doilies, antique mirrors.
When I am out at night, I wave to her, I wave to the moon.
Panicked that I’d lost my heart,
I use my GPS device to track its location.
Somewhere between brain and breastbone
I am navigated in a new direction:
“Follow the course of the road from the cerebellum along the pituitary.
Now turn left and then turn right at the atria for three beats.”
Tracking the route, I am delayed at the hippocampus.
With a name like hippocampus how can’t it be a fun place?
Long-term, pleasant memories surface:
the ice pond where I skated as a girl,
my first kiss from a boy,
swigs of Boone’s Farm Apple wine,
kelp smells scenting a faded jeans jacket creased with beach sand.
I want to dwell in the hippocampus.
“Course correction, course correction,” my GPS robotically signals.
“You are living in the past. You are not in the now.”
What fun is the Now with its reality of creaky knees, aching feet?
I steer towards hoola-hoop days – spry and supple hips and hearts
and am led to my sisters – both no longer girls — masters of the rolls and twirls.
We sisters approach, tentatively now: thinning hair, a wobbly gait, faulty hearing.
Our impatience and anxiety with each other –
our nervous laughter —
fearing that my tongue will speak the reality of my own truth
and I will offend.
I could be seduced into believing myself and my kinfolk are strangers –
that my heart has disappeared.
She is random she is free and uncontrolled by time and space. The clock shatters when she appears.
She is the Muse, a butterfly offering on-again, off-again glimpses of light to those open to her inspiration. Try and catch her, but not with the nets of over-thinking. If I take a walk, ride my bike, she might return.
If I try too hard, she disappears. A muse, after all, is not a truffle to be rooted out from the earth by pigs and served up at the dinner table for $200 a pop.
In our time-starved world she is free to visit wherever, whenever and whomever she wants. Are you a Mother longing for time to write? Listen for her whispers even though you yourself may feel like a babe alone in the woods. Or you may actually be in the woods, walking a shoreline, standing in line at a subway station, at the check-out buying groceries.
It doesn’t matter where or when or how she shows up. Maybe you like to write at cafes in the early morning and you are halfway through your double Americano when an image, a sentence creeps in.
She shows up Anytime. Dawn, noon, dusk, midnight.
Is she fairy, is she mist?
All I know is that if I stay in the Now, silent in my head, hopeful in my heart, I might feel inspired. I have a notebook handy, a tape recorder. Whatever I am doing she just might show up.