This article was originally published in the Spring 2022 print issue.
Remember the homes we built 182 years ago near the Chezzetcook salt marsh?
At the head, where the blueberries grow,
fresh water dissolving into ocean,
with wafts of sulfur seeping in.
When we encased miniature sacred hearts in glass bubbles,
and sealed them in those thin walls.
Seaweed bundles lining outside, years of wallpaper lining insides,
A new layer of patterned paper applied ritually each year,
slowly peeling at the edge one by one over time.
I read those crunchy pages like a book while hiding under the table near the door leading to the field,
where she baptized me in well water.
She used to rock in that old chair,
creaking near the metallic wood stove,
palms on rough bark and splinters,
feeding the stove’s iron jaws with wood,
stirring its hot breath.
calm hands won’t burn, she says,
But then, fire’s not breathing very well at all,
sometimes a frantic rabbit’s foot thumps hard inside its tight ribs.
And what can you do but run and run into the summer sunshine,
maybe use a beach towel as a cape and dance it up all around with that rabbit’s beat,
swinging it up into the sky.
Sometimes still; you hide away and listen as you wait for them to go.
There are great places to hide!
Behind piles of fading lobster traps, with their smell of salty death,
under sweet blackberry and soft rose bushes,
especially when it rains and she makes those jam jellies.
In the musty wooden hay trough where mama cow came to kiss me,
where we hypnotize each other.
In Great-Grammy’s potato-dirt basement,
but they said you can only go there in a dream.
I went there.
Walked across the field, into the hole, down the steps,
smelled its potato-dirt piles,
squatted down by the inner window to the damp ground,
and unsealed the wet wooden hatch.
Opened the window to watch fluorescent liquid threads stream by,
yellow, turquoise, red, orange, white, and green rivers, floating.
Multicoloured DNA wires of a telephone line hit by lightning,
lighting up the cool dirt powdered floor.
She asked me to choose my river strands, to build my own braids.
My hands reaching into the glow the way she fed fire.
Calm hands won’t burn, she says,
choose wisely, she says.
Mom slept with her eyes open.
She is in the fluorescent ether now, too.
My hands trace her turquoise.
Emily, Geraldine, Luella, Virginia, Gloria, Gloria, Gloria, George.
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