Saturday, July 9, 2016

Twinned; Vanitas

I was looking at Death's face all wrong and I missed her lesson entirely.

1. Vanity

Tomorrow marks fifteen years without Mom. In ten more, which I know now will pass in the blink of my daughter's eye, I will have lived as long without her as with. Today is poetry and prose, myth and medicine and mirrors.

In ten years a nursing child fell asleep and opened her eyes on adolescence in the mirror. 

She visits them so often now. She styles her own hair seated at her vanity.

She no longer pads to me in pajama feet and thrusts a brush toward me like a question mark.

My hair used to fall down my back. Mom would brush and braid it. 

The day I met (married, too) my husband I styled it the same; the way she pulled back pieces to force me to show my face, and left loose the back for vanity. 

Here; it said—I lived this long without a blade crossing this line. I was a breakable, gossamer thing
that was twisted into strength.

2. Skull

Now I crop it away; I shave half to the skull.
I stare down the mirror and meet my fears. I am a warrior or
a dissolute, tearing creature, as life will have me.

Now gravity shows me my bones. 

I am a mother, a figure made of love and pain and worry.
Hips that wrenched open and screamed yes while my mind
was a white, blank no.

No, I cannot.
But I did; I have; I am. 

Ten years, and fifteen.

Daughter is a new word for a new mirror. It is no longer my name. Not without Mother.

I gave it to you, and my heart aches for its sister: 
Granddaughter, in her voice.
I'd give such pain and tears to hear this.

I bear life; I bear death.
I carry them in the twinning sounds of a heartbeat. A rushing riot of fluid is life, then. The retreat is a vacuum.

I listen for what is not heard. Endure what can't be endured because I do; I am; I will.

I think of Hel now, rather than Persephone and Demeter.
I see her in myself. Half of her flayed open to reveal the anatomy beneath. A skeletal grin, musculature showing. 

The other face composed and prettified by skin hale and lovely set upon it.

I confused her faces until today. The peaceful, pleasing skin is the fabric woven to give rest and beauty to the dead. It is the curtain where we can hide.

The sinew and blood beneath shows us how to live. Unblinking and naked, the machinations of the body illustrated.

What strength in this shift; maybe—the merging from two goddesses to one body holding both.
A body of brutal, defiant physicality. That is how we continue, We simply carry the heart's rhythm. We ride on the strength of the bones we have.

We learn that mirrors and metaphors
flip and deceive even as they reveal.