Sweet Softness of Dates
She sits in her wicker chair, the one painted bright green because that’s how she likes it. She lets the sweet softness of dates linger on her tongue, makes a small mound of pits on the seat next to her where the others won’t see it and scold her for making a mess. The air coming in through the veranda windows smells of the sea and the bread bakery down below and exhaust from those damned motorbikes that roar the wrong way down the street day and night, day and night. Some poor dog is yowling—probably being chased by a snot-nosed kid with a stick whose family didn’t raise him right.
Who am I? they ask. Who are you? What year is it? Where were you born? So many questions. Do they take me for a fool? I’ve survived war, a love that couldn’t be and a marriage without it, children who left me to go here there and everywhere, a body once sturdy and beautiful that has grown stiff and feeble and fragile. So don’t ask me who I am or what I remember. I am the air you breathe, the world you think of as yours. I am hands that have birthed a thousand babies, helped girls-barely-women in distress do what they felt they must, cooked countless meals when all I wanted was to put up my feet. These eyes have seen more than you’ll ever know or understand. So don’t ask me. Don’t feed me. Don’t try to make me sleep or walk in circles around the apartment in the building I built. Just leave me in the peace I’ve never known but have finally found. It is mine to take.
Between Springtime and Night
(after Persephone, by Helen Lundeberg 1950)
She stood on the tiny patch of grass clutching a cluster of flowers—pale pastels. All the color she could bear. For so long it had seemed to her that every day was a choice though most days she didn’t have strength to choose. She’d seen that abyss up close, that cavernous mouth of dark that threatened to devour her, devour everything light and good. She almost wished it would, sucking away her grief as well. But then it settled—this thick, solid presence inside her, and she lost track of the days since he left, gliding through time on the rituals of the living—waking to the sage smoke smell of him still clinging to the soft quilt, watching the steam from her morning tea rise and writhe before vanishing in the sun. At the keyboard, her fingers performed their perfunctory duties as if no thought were required, obediently producing figures—looping black on a sheet of white, figures that might once have made sense to her, seemed profound, even. Sometimes, when the bright was too much, flickering and flashing as if mocking her despair, she’d pull the shades, only realize night was coming when sadness blanketed the numbness of day.
The damp grass is cool between her toes now as she gazes at the darkness that once held her in thrall. A tremble of warm air fragrant with hyacinth is at her back, ruffling her skirt, lifting her hair. Even now she hesitates between springtime and night, gripping those pale flowers.