Ancestral energy lives in the stars above us, the stones beneath us. Their memory gathers in oceans, rivers and seas. It hums its silent wisdom within the body of every tree.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

For Donna

In the highlands,
where blue and smoky mountain peaks meet
along a streambed of mimosa and wild thyme,
a great white owl shared space with me.
A slip of wind with unblinking dandelion-colored eyes,
feathers brilliant against the dense and fragrant greenery.
She appeared as clouds crept the silent streets at twilight,
far removed from the crumbling factory town,

the small home along the canal offering little to children
waiting for day trips to the field of golden-yellow blossoms,
grasshoppers, and crickets across from grandma’s house.

In the split-ranch with Arizona white walls
greeted by a braided macramé owl,
perched on a stick of stripped wood.

Owls filled her home,
where I had chicken pox.
Her nurse’s hands soothed me,
the smell of baking soda in water.

Donna was birthdays, Christmas, Easter, Sunday dinners,
card games and warm summer days.
She was tilled earth, petunias, tomatoes and cucumber plants-
My second mother.

I never knew she was not blood,
the only of three grandmothers who laughed with us,
passed time with us,
who stole kisses, holding squirming and giggling grandchildren
against her soft skin.

“You would not have wanted to see her this way,” mom says
“sick and fading. I told her how much you loved her.”

It is my heart she is thinking of,
but I am lost, trying to remember
if I ever really told her myself.

Her skin is bleach cold in the funeral parlor. Cold 
like plastered owl bookends made by thirteen year-old hands.
I can smell the powder she wore but cannot see her beneath the lacquer mask
Donna of southwest fire and sunshine would never wear.

I want to scrape the pink rouge from her cheeks,
to scrub the Broadway gloss from her lips.
I want to scream at her defacement,
So that I may pretend she is only waiting,
playing at death, until I arrive-

But I am here. And she is not.

I cannot touch her, cannot bend to her,
because the kiss I want to give will not wake her,
will not raise her lids,
will not show me her glittering, witty eyes.

I cannot pretend I am dreaming.

In a future place,
my heart begs to bend
to plant itself in warmed earth,
to grow and open and burst into life,
where she might be waiting,
barefoot and darkened beneath the sun,
where her hands might wrap around me,
arms pulling me from the earth,
where we would be laughing together again.

I am pulled back into the bright green grass
and thin air of the North Carolina peak.
The white owl blinks-

gone in a silent gust, the ghost soars above me
disappearing into the mountain sky

as the clouds roll away.

For Donna McDonald, my beloved grandmother who died on Mother's Day 2001. I wrote this after her funeral to process through the grief and hold onto the love. Today is her birthday. Not a day goes by where I don't hear her laughter in my head. She loved owls and Elvis Presley- and I loved her. Happy Birthday, Grandma.

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