When I was 4ish, I dreamed about where I had lived before I was born. A sylvan place, open and sunny – warm and soft and green. You were there, and we were planning something.
That we are together is a fact, not just something to remember. I say this as much for myself as for you.
In the dream, I lay on the grass, in open shade beneath a massive apple tree. The hard tree roots pressed into my back, but I felt they knew me so I didn’t mind. I looked up at the blue sky through the leaves, and wondered.
You must have wondered, too – because I think that was when we began.
Happy birthday, darling. I love since before beginning, and I am sure there will be no end.
I did not feel like choosing between butterflies today.
I wanted you to have them all.
But this isn’t even all of them.
One is for you, and one is for me.
But I can’t remember which is which.
Maybe you can tell?
Since seven years ago, I may have learned
Just because you let the wind take you, doesn’t mean you are not determined.
Just because things are ended doesn’t mean they are fulfilled.
That job belongs to us.
They are never really gone as long as we remember.
I remember, Barbara Anne Downtain. And we are both forgiven.
March 28th was her last day. Do you know what that means? I think you do.
It means, remember where you are now — the bittersweet remnants of coffee on your tongue, the ancient dryness of the hand that you hold – even if, for today, it is only your own.
It means, look up and let the sky absorb you into its clouds and sunrays like Mary rising to her rightful home, because it’s your home, too. Not heaven, but here — and our belonging.
All my cells say one thing – I love you and you broke my heart. You love me and I broke your heart. And if I become human at all, that is the story of how.
Please remember she loved daffodils, like her sister. She loved arguing and the Ministry of Silly Walks.
And you – she loved you, the way a human being can.
I pray it was a good day, dear. I miss you and love you, Mom.
For my sisters whose mothers are gone:
You must know now that she loved you
in some way
(through no fault of yours)
obscured by the
blindness that lets us all
go on breathing despite the fact
there is no tomorrow.
seeping through crevices,
marks of others’ misdeeds
(that through no fault of yours)
Became all you could be
without finding her rage
in your heart.
There may be no other way
inside the skin of her tenderness
no way other than to survive her
and all that entails.
The wheels of spring turned so quickly this year, we hardly blinked and the trees had shed their petal pink disguises in favor of hungry green leaves. Or maybe it was me who moved too quickly, whizzing from one imperative to the next because that is what “imperative” means. Lilac, crabapple, forsythia, magnolia, serviceberry, quince, ornamental pear – rolled across parks and lawns according to their own tender urgency. Between home-work and work-work, I couldn’t put up much of a chase.
So this year, I have trusted Spring’s judgment to reveal whatever was needed. She saw her opportunity and she took it. She paused for me though I barely saw her. She didn’t linger waiting for my grasp. She was too free for that.
We arrived together in this world, squished and compliant with the peculiar form of our life-in-waiting. You were braver than me (you always have been) – more restless to try your voice and see what it you had to say. You made it look so easy, and fun (you always do) – I couldn’t help wanting my spot, too – right next to you.
Happy Birthday, honey. You, me (blessed).
Miss Barbara Ann Downtain, April 29, 1926-March 29, 2010
Bring you some daffodil
as thin as green asparagus shoots
grasped by teeth
plucked by mouth
a kissing-loving gone
dissolved into a moment
new as rain
where now though gone
you can always be found.
Conveyed to earth
with time and blood
Made of faces as familiar as my own
I see her now
A shapeless incandescence
seeking nectar without remorse
because it is the purpose of butterflies
to turn the life of flowers into
and yield it back into the breath
from which they came.
It goes without saying that butterflies improve your hair-do – even for Victorian Ladies with roses in their curls – and can be liberally added as tiaras whenever you don’t have a better idea.
This little butterfly since February 15
went to 18 hours of class
and 120 hours of work
and wrote case briefs
and read statutes
and schlepped every single thing she owned by hand
and by car
and by the miraculous aid of a friend with a van
and by Two Men and A Truck
and piled it all into a new room where boxes tower yet in front of the window where the photos should be
and started a different temp assignment with all new software
and interviewed for a job or two that didn’t turn out
and got new sway bars on the car
and made dinner and coffee
and gave Fran the Accountant some not quite ready taxes
and held a few hands while someone cried
and yes, goddammit, took Sunday off
to bask in the warmth of the Sisters Who Stitch
and no, this year
there won’t be as many butterflies
as have unfolded in Marches Past
yes, goddammit, it is breaking my heart.