(For My Mother)
"I was dead when I came here. Dead when the bungalow was built. Here there is no pressure to live. So, I felt every breath I took to be of my choosing.
That is why this piece of land taught me to live every day like a dying wish. That is how I was born again. Here. In this place.
"Mi tierra. Ahora, su tierra."
I hear my mother's long rolling R's. As if she held a humming bird safely in her mouth. As if she loved the word too much to let it leave her.
Tierra. A word on which my mother's tongue took wing.
"Mexico is not an easy place. When the people see El Presidente nuevo, they see a new face under which nothing will change. When El Presidente sees the people, he sees them as a field of wheat. The individual shafts and grains are not real to him. Only the harvest.
It is a futureless place of pride and ritual, based on what used to be, in entirety. Because of this, it is a fine place to be dead. It is because of this, nothing matters, except that which you choose to.
You cannot live here without learning what matters to you by it absence. Because of this, Mexico is a good place to be born.
I came here to be born a woman and Mexico was my midwife.
* * * * *
I have come to my mother's Mexican bungalow bearing her ashes.
Standing in her garden, I falter under the weight of her advice. And my heart goes out from under me.
On my left foot is a cut that will not heal completely. The product of glass in the wound I did not remove when I had the chance. Now it is a part of me that causes no real pain anylonger, but holds the promise of working itself farther into my body.
On the long, hot drive to Mexico, I pressed it to the pedals and the floorboards at every opportunity. I hoped to press it deeper. Wished the glass to make its way into my bloodstream and assasinate the Emperor of my circulatory system.
I sit in my mother's kitchen and try to say his name. Nothing comes out of me but, "please."
I wrap my arms around myself and pretend to be my mother rocking me.
"Por favor," I say. "pleaseplease."
My mother did not want to leave me. This makes her death an awful thing to live through in which there is no fault to be assigned.
I do not blame God for coming for my mother.
Her pain became such before she died that she could cry to no one else but God for release. And when she did, He released her.
God always heard my mother and he always answered her. He always gave her whatever she wanted because she only ever wanted what He gave her.
The only thing he could not supply her was my happiness. I understand this to be because too much of a person's own unhappiness is there own responsibility. In this way there is also no one to blame for the lover who left me the week of my mother's death.
Except maybe, me. For not being what he wanted.
I wish. I wish I had a marker for this second, less tangible death.
A headstone to run my fingers over, so that I might read the words and dates by touch. I wish to incorporate the information through another means. One that my mind might finally accept. And maybe, once accepting, the mind could talk the heart into believing it to be true.
I have no other means but touch to try, for I am both deaf and blind with grief.
I wish for a grave to lie upon. I wish it to grow wildflowers untended. I wish the flowers to bury it again in color. No headstone, no mound. Just the flowers, who do not change their shape or color for any tragedy. Who, in their blameless beauty, can still call the bees.
I offer a prayer to my mother. Offer a prayer to God.
"Please. I want to be blameless as a graveyard flower."
I sit on the edge of my mother's bed, waking to a dream of her in God's kitchen.
It is her favorite time of day. When so much of the world is sleeping that it seems to belong only to you and whomever you've chosen to spend it with. When it is too late to be anything but early. The odd hours when Time seems to curve full circle and pile into itself.
Stalling on the tracks. Stopping, momentarily.
All my mother's favorite moments were stolen from Time in this way.
My mother, once again a woman mid-thirty, is making coffee in God's kitchen. The two are cooking together. She is leaning back against the counter. He is sitting in a kitchen chair, long legs stretching across the tile.
They are eating up all the ingredients to the soup. Laughing together while the broth boils down on the stove.
"O - Maybe this is what it looked like when He made the world. Maybe this is what it felt like to Him. Drinking cofee at the wreckless hour of three a.m. Brewing soup, laughing heart to heart with a beautiful woman. In love."
"O - if that is true then no wonder He loves us."
I wonder. I wonder why there seems to be no comparable book written about this beautiful woman who keeps God up nights in a good way.
Maybe it is enough to know that she looks just like my mother, God's Mistress.
Anyone who does not believe that God ever would, or ever could love a woman in this way; couldn't ever be tied to a woman by a passion that does not care what she costs Him, or what He costs her -
because it is worth Everything,
is a Blasphemer.
"Ave Maria, Blasphemer. My mother wears Mary's face."
When I ate today I could taste the food again.
My mother in her yellow slip witht the knotted strap is dancing with God in the livingroom.
Because He is God, Billy Holiday is singing, 'God Bless the Child' accapella. His arm is around her waist, she is hanging her head and arms back. She is standing in her barefeet on top of his black boots. The red polish on her toes bright as poppies.
She leans back. And back. Able to do so because He is God and therefore she is weightless in His arms. He turns her in a slow circle. My mother places a hand on his shoulder and uses it to pull herself up, abruptly.
Then she laughs. The way she does when hanging her head back on the swings so that her stomach flips over. And this laugh, which always before seemesd to ascend immediately to Heaven, hangs about them in the livingroom. Tangling itself in the drapes, bumping against the light fixtures.
It does not leave them for it is already home.
The way she did when she hung her head back on the swings. The way my mother did.
Tomorrow I will look in the mirror.
I see my mother's face.
I am a woman of thirty-five, pouring the ashes of my mother through my fingers and into the dirt of Mexico.
I am the grieving widow of a man who did not die.
I am the grieving daughter of God's Mistress.
I am seeing my mother and God in a Cadillac convertible, driving the long dry roads of my mother's Mexico. She is wearing sunglasses, a scarf over her hair and a white 1950's sundress with black polka dots. Her heels and her lipstick are red.
God is driving with no feet on the pedals and no hands upon the wheel. He is holding my mother to Him. He is pointing to the mountains and saying,
"I made this."
To the drought,
He wakes a dead dog by the side of the road,
O - my mother she is taking the skyway.
My mother she is in the arms of the only man she has always loved. She is asking Him. She is asking to go to Graceland. God is nodding.
He folds the world in such a way that Graceland can only be reached by driving all through the night with the top down.
Because He is God, my mother never gets any colder than the need for His arm around her shoulder.
And when she gets sleepy, He gives her the moon for a night-light.
My mother, she looks at me in the rearview mirror. Pulls the sunglasses down her nose and says,
And gestures. To the night sky, the celestial highway, the man who loves her beside her.
"O - ," she says. "O - How I have always wanted to be taken to Graceland, by way of Mexico."