If grief has no name then it is not grief. When I was very young
the casket was drawn into the sunroom. The light flushed its wooden
planks as if it were a dock, simple and orderly as any other, lengthening
toward infinity. My father’s legs buoyed his body through the room
as flotsam through water. When my mother’s blood
spilled, it was invisible. No mop was sufficient to collect it. They tried
to explain the sister I could have had but didn’t. There was
a passageway inside my mother, what kind it was and where
it led I was not told, but if you held a straw to your eye
you could have seen my sister lodged inside. How did they know
it was a girl if she could fit inside a straw? Am I supposed to feel
sorry for her more than for my mother because she could not
come into the world, but what is the world? I was sent to live
on the farm. My grandmother was deaf. She never hugged me,
it was like she couldn’t hear how to do it. The wheelbarrow
wobbled along clacking its cargo of garden tools, and the chickens
sank their talons into the crinkling hay. There was the sound
of cans in the kitchen chiming and the thunk of cans anchored
with beans. My mother’s name was Violet and I could say it
as many times as I wanted. On the farm I got the scarlet fever
and the wind from the fields barreled into my room, the curtains
flapped at my arms rough as skirts of twine. My skin flaked, I was
a husk too long past harvest. The strawberry of my swollen tongue
shut tight inside my mouth. My grandmother’s tiny body in the chair.
Poor child, poor scarletina. No one said that, I made it up.
And when I shut my eyes I saw my sister, the button
that undid our lives. It hurt my heart, the scarlet fever. All of it
hurt my heart. If your grief has no name then give it one.
Poor Christina, my father used to say. It was not
my mother’s name. It was not my name.
Copyright © Persea Books 2014
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on behalf of Persea Books.