Monday, October 29, 2012
i am stretched on your grave
I am stretched on your grave,
And will lie there forever.
If your hands were in mine,
I'd be sure we'd not sever.
My apple tree, my brightness,
Tis time we were together,
For I smell of the earth
And I am stained by the weather.
When my family thinks
That I'm safe in my bed,
From night untill morning,
I am stretched at your head,
Calling out to the air
With tears hot and wild,
My grief for the girl
That I loved as a child.
The priests and the friars
Approach me in dread
Because I still love you,
My love, and you're dead.
I still would be your shelter
Through rain and through storm.
And with you in your cold grave,
I cannot sleep warm.
Táim sínte ar do thuama, trans. Frank O'Connor
It is a poem I have never sung to my daughter. I took out the stanza about first love and maidenheads. I loved her in a different way. But I still loved her since before I knew I would ever be a mother.But when I hear it, I cannot help but think of Lucia. I imagine myself, fingernails filled with soil and earth, grasping into the brown grass, prostrate over her little body, weeping a brackish mixture of love and blubbering. Grief is nothing like I imagined. I was less cool than I thought I would be, less composed. I was a mess, bloated and drunk in the early weeks, and later, angry and salty.
She had no grave. We buried her in the wind. Fling her ashes to the sea in wild gestures of release, but palm her tiny urn. It is a slight of hand. Now you see her. Now you don't. We cannot let go.
I prop myself on my elbows, aiming at the gravestone. I drove to Boston for the weekend to meet up with Jess and Julia and Niobe. We ask Niobe to take us somewhere morbid and she picks a cemetery. There is a stone with a carving of a skull with wings. The angel of death. A calavera. It is the first I see, and quite unself-consciously, that I lie on the grave of a young women, snapping a photo with my Android.
I read her name.
Jane a Negro Servant of Andrew Bord, something or other...She was 22 years old and 3 months. I put my forehead on the space above her skull.
You were someone's daughter, Jane.
And so today, you are my daughter.
I am stretched on your grave.
I will lie there forever.
Atlantic City looks gone. I don't miss it. I'm worrying about my own ass right now. I see all these pictures of alcohol and parties pop up on Facebook and miss drinking in a storm. I don't miss drinking, as a sport or a lifestyle. I just miss a nice bourbon now and again. It is like that, isn't it? A cigarette never tastes good after years without smoking, though I have imagined it a thousand times. And similarly, a drink would not end well. It would take me somewhere much worse than the hurricane, but I still wish I were able to have just one (even though I never was able to have just one.) And that is the irony of missing drinking. I miss a kind of drink I never did. I grieve a person I never was.
The power went out for an hour or so, then back on again. Sam lit a fire, and we watched a movie about Alfred Hitchcock and Tippi Hedren. I drank coffee. It is a full moon tonight, and a hurricane is in town and I stretch on her grave, and create an altar for Dia de los Muertos. The lights flicker again, so I leave you with pictures of my altar.
If you have day of the dead pictures, link them in the comments. I'd love to look.