It was the winter my mother discovered her identical twin sister was dying. It was a season of falling into knowledge of another's body failing; the body you were born with. All that had been sculpted in a body was slowly being chipped away at day by day by day. It was a season of maybes. Maybe she tasted Ohio snow instead of morphine. Maybe behind her eyes lies another world no one has access to. Maybe she is already gone and what remains is pantomime of living. Maybe she will die before Christmas.
It was the winter I saw my mother touch someone on a regular basis. She smoothes and strokes her sister's arms as if they were soft sheets. Through sunset in the eyes to moonlight in her hands, she does this. Maybe she even whispers "taste the snow". How literal we take our lives when they are taking us on our final journey. Where do we receive direction on what to do. We don't. We go on nerve endings and will power and love we contain in the corner waiting for moments like these.
These are contained, constrained paragraphs - no combustibles here. Precise and to the point. What snakes beyond the lines that are laid out? That is the real saga. It is winter and there are a city of birds outside the window. They flock when my sister-in-law arrives with her bread crumbs. This is a parenthetical detail to the main narrative. But surrounded by family and hospice workers. Women brush their hair, people buy tickets to movies, fill their cars with gas. She does nothing but walk towards herself. Sometimes slower than before. This is her task. The dark wing she flies under and the walking, walking, walking, walking. No cold ash in the mouth here. Yes, Ohio snow and the scent of flowers in the room.
It is morning and she lies in her bed. It is afternoon and she lies in her bed. It is evening and she lies in her bed. Some say "resting" but I prefer ruminating in a roomful of memories. You are thinking that death is delicate, soft and slow and nothing dangerous about it at all once you have decided it is the road you will meet yourself on. This is no abstraction for you nor art one must be taught. Instinctual, the I in you meets it full faced. The moon glows from the bulb in the ceiling, silver speckled stucco are the stars you peer at. You do not question it. A thousand windows ago were birds water rock sand desert wind. Now there is your own pale reflection where once there was the world forever, I shall not entirely be emptied of beauties, the gift of your small breath, the drenched grass, smell of your sleep, lilies, lilies ...planetary wanderings through the black amnesia of Heaven. You touch still remember still feel still. Ambivalence rests in your red needle slammed arms. But there is beauty in blood too. The pulsing, veins and rivers of it. The deep underground river you sleep in. You there on your back eyes to the moon lit room, not a relic but a woman avoiding death's lip to her ear, the shadows on a face, the abyss of absences. The moon mingles with the image of a woman warm and flushed with life and history and future.
My aunt remembers names lucidly. The keeping of names is sacred. Before naming things and people was wind stone snow.
How to explain there are the perpetually open graves. One need not give oneself over to death. Fluid in the brain circling like liquid around a planet need not destroy you. Your bones might turn to tin but it still does not claim you. Creaking when you breathe means you still breathe. Yours is not the stone face of the woman who does not feel. The mirrors may seem to fail you, but you face them anyway. You live now in a ponderous house, with strangers, family, friends, co-workers flooding in. "Where am I"? you ask. In the citadel of love.