Dad read from the newspaper, always more expensive and thinner.
T. S. Eliot, “The Waste Land”.
“April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.”
Maybe every blog this month
Voices cut out spaces and leave pinched words in tense frames. I had wanted to check out the entire display of books in the young adult area. I was shocked at how many books in verse I never knew were there. I took only one. Not a book in verse, but a book of verse. Voices in the Air: Poems for Listeners by Naomi Shihab Nye. Before anything else, she tells us, the reader, that voices cast out, remain. If we listen, we hear them.
“I have some buds,” Dad observes but he only speaks of apple trees. Lilacs are my favorite flower. April consisted mostly of tulip leaves and bluebells and wind. Wind is imbalance. I learned this piece of science with my soul. The air pressure seeks to equalize itself. The April days wouldn’t be so bad except for the wind. It is imbalance that causes the chill. My thumbs and earlobes slide through the poetry.
We are halfway through April and I am halfway through my two weeks notice. The job that is more than a job had finally arrived.
I only mention once to my dad, “I will be working where she worked.” I was in those buildings when I was a little girl. I can see the gym covered in mats and narrow, gray halls.
“Where?” everyone asks.
“The complex of county buildings between 14 and 51,” I had memorized my line. I was always good at memory that had nothing to do with me. Vocabulary. The order of letters. The way my mother died.
I read half of the poetry book, but my interlibrary loan is almost due. I add to April’s swept sky gloom and watch the video Our Disappeared/Los Desaparecidos. Somehow it’s always Argentina that makes me listen to my mother, to Judaism, to strong women and loss.
“Being forgotten is the worst curse in Judaism,” one mother explains in the film. She immigrated to Argentina to escape the Holocaust. Her mother died in Auschwitz walked to the gas chamber to the tune of Wagner. Then, her own children were taken by the military coup in the 1970s. Their captor praised her speakers on a visit to her home and then requested Wagner’s music. I google remembrance.
Wikipedia stated simply, “The Hebrew phrase yimakh shemo יִמַּח שְׁמוֹ "May his name be obliterated" is a curse placed after the name of particular enemies of the Jewish people.”
A separate article published by a newsletter I subscribe to, My Jewish Learning, paraphrased voices who spoke to me and through me in my novel’s characters.
“My mother was a bird, a bird who couldn’t swim.”
Voices that give my characters purpose like my novel’s verse.
Save the Elephants.
“The elephant’s mother always casts
Shadow on its skin.”
The calendar is full of remembrances.
“Our memories shape us and guide our mission to build a better world. Our memories of bondage should remind us to wipe out slavery and to treat all people with dignity. Our memories of leaving the corners of our fields untouched should remind us to take care of “the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow” both within and outside our community. Our memories of Amalek should remind us of our role to blot out evil in the world.”
The article doesn’t conclude, but begins, “The pinnacle is, of course, Passover.”
Passover. It is that time of year. Empty chairs. Somewhere among the voices, those chairs started another table from which I am absent. I wish we would have cremated my mother so she would be everywhere instead of alone. My brother carried his still born daughter in a cardboard box as foundation of memory. I understand. Nine months of stardust that never spoke would simply float away.
My mother pulls out her chair.
Pushes it in.
Pressure high. Low.
Holds her tight.
Pressure young. Old.
I understand why my grandmother bought us the memory light. But how many years can its bulb last counted in once every 365 days, days.
I believe Robin Wall Kimmerer. In one breath, I breathe
Consoled by water lilies.
Wind can vibrate no leaves on waiting branches.
My veins and arteries are strings cut as capillaries.
Persistent air. Harmony. Community.
“Look what nature does. Hurts her own,” Dad stokes the fire in the stove. Heat. Forgotten fire. The folded the cork of the wine bottle into my sweatshirt pocket. One glass remains from my job offer’s celebration.
The money. The practicality. The comfort. The payment for the commodity of my education still due. Wind. I’m chilled. That can be the only imbalance. My other work, far away was supposed to be a gift. Nothing is owed. I want to need the money. I want to need the money to move on from monoculture, to return the field to her edges. I want to need the money to cradle my mother’s bones. I will have to be patient. There will be no working ahead. The vacuum of air would push me back. Wind. I can only live forward. Breathing instead of gasping. I can speak. My mother’s voice is still on tape.
“But, we pushed her. Nature. We drove her too it,” I exhale an even tone. The rest could be the offering, I should have offered Her first. I wrap my sweater tighter though its thick yarn creates gaps in its ability to warm.
(“Showing Up” pg. 51-51) “Things don’t fall apart. Things hold. Lines connect in thin ways that last and last. . .”
I hear Ana’s low but bubbled voice. She padded my lonely and lack of ness with an invitation to her family’s Passover in Guatemala every year.
(“Tell Us All the Gossip You Know” pg. 81-87) “William Goyen said writing started with trouble—what you never worked out yet—just start there.”
I hear Nana’s sharp eyebrow frown when I finished my Manischewitz in two gulps at my first seder. I didn’t mean to do it wrong, to live me wrong.
(“True Success” pg. 78-79 a poem written around a Robert Louis Stevenson quote) “To travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive.”
My mother’s words are still out there. I press my hat over my ears and zip my collar up to face the cold. Wind blows, speaks through all season. Still, wind can be warm breath too.
Shihab Nye, Naomi. (2018). Voices in the Air: Poems for Listeners. Greenwillow Press: New
For more wonderful videos related to teacher training or literacy program development in rural Guatemala, please visit www.child-aid.org. I have no v...