Proof there is god

Poetry
The tears my mother cries as she washes dishes after dinner
Vaughn Williams on the stereo
The way my brother leans all of his weight into me when we hug
The promise my father keeps, “call me if you need anything”
The wedding, the divorce, the remarried women, the man she remarried
Women who make their own birthday cakes
And every time my brother and I refuse to part without saying “I love you”
That is god

Remembering Abuela

Women

Marian Veronica Moran

How appropriate it was to walk into my grandmother’s house on a Saturday afternoon to the radio playing Ave Maria in the living room. It was a few minutes past two o’clock. Warm, natural light filled the living room as I sat cross-legged on the rug, shuffling through images of my great-grandmother, Marian. I am always amazed by her beauty. Her features were striking, demanding more attention. I swear people fixed their posture when she walked into a room. She had a light, frothy laugh like foam on coffee. And her voice exuded strength. I always thought it perfect to record an audio book.

Marian loved to read, she’d go through five or six books a week. As a child I longed for this ability. I remember marveling at the stack of library books beside her chair. Its height practically created an additional side table next to her. As a child I couldn’t fathom a life so dedicated to books. I couldn’t fathom spending so much time reading and never getting bored. And if she wasn’t reading, Marian completed crossword puzzles out of newspapers, sketching letters into each box in a slanted, feminine script. Marian’s handwriting was passed on like a gene to my grandmother, my mom, and now me. It keeps each of us bound to the generation before us. When my mother is not with me, I can write her into my company. And this moves upwards, through the threads of four generations. Each daughter can write her mother into existence. Sometimes, for no purpose at all, I write our names in descending order. Marian. Christine. Erin. Kelly. To me, it reads like a prayer.

Last autumn, all three women (Marian, Christine, and Erin) visited me at college during a weekend when turtlenecks and vests emerged throughout campus. We walked around the old, character infused buildings. Academic halls. Dorms. The library. I remember how appropriate it felt to show my maternal bloodline my all-women’s college. It felt appropriate because of my gratitude to them, for embodying strength, for raising me in an atmosphere of authentic womanhood.

We came upon a grassy area near a pond. A bridge stretched across the water that led to a paved section with benches for students to read or relax. The branches of a soft willow tree swayed above us. My mom noticed that a young girl was having her senior pictures taken by a photographer nearby. And with the combination of gumption and determination, my mother kindly asked the photographer to take a picture of us in front of the pond.

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That night, on our way back from dinner, Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons began playing on the radio. And because she is fearless and never misses an opportunity to sing, I remember listening to the union of Marian and Frankie’s voice the whole car ride back to campus.

It can be argued that Marian was, and still is, Frankie Valli’s biggest fan. In 2011, Marian rushed the stage at one of his concert’s at the Fox Theatre in Detroit. I’ve heard many retellings of this moment throughout the years and what I’ve gathered is that Marian abandoned her velvet seat and headed down the aisle toward the stage. Once arriving, she caught Frankie’s attention. He knelt down, lowered his head, and allowed my great-grandmother to profess to him her admiration of his music.

“Give us a second,” Frankie asked of the audience. Marian held Frankie’s hand. She probably kissed him on the cheek as well. I imagine the crowd being dumbfounded. A murmur of curious voices probably filled the theatre. Who is this woman? Does she know Frankie? 

This is my great-grandmother, Marian. No, she doesn’t know Frankie, she’s just fearless.

To conclude my tribute to Marian, here is a poem I wrote in memory of her fruitful, well-lived life.

Grandmother in Spanish

Dear Jacob from sixth grade English class,

Marian died. She read herself to death. And I thought you should know.

Remember Marian? I told you about her when we were diagramming sentences on looseleaf paper.

She’s the grandmother I called abuela. Remember? She lived in Mexico, near Los Flamingos.

I showed you the picture my mother took of her: a flower in her short grey hair, fingers wrapped around a cold glass, a white blouse.

My mother told her where to place the flower,

told her where to turn her head and smile.

I told you about the stingrays, the heat. 

I told you about the hotel’s peach walls and the gecko my mother found.

In the evenings, we watched episodes of Full House in Spanish.

The palm branches and crochet hammocks.

The freckles on my cheeks.

 

A year before she died, Marian asked that we call her grandma instead.

It had been years since she’d left Mexico.

I had to train myself to say grandma,

repeating the syllables, picturing them in my head.

But like a stubborn vocabulary word, it wouldn’t stick. 

 

On May 25th, Marian’s lavender bedroom filled with family. 

The priest anointed her palms, placed a crucifix on the nightstand.

I watched my mother say goodbye. Thank her for the bountiful memories.

 

Then it was my turn. I kissed her forehead, touched her fingertips,

one of my tears landed on her nightgown.

I could smell the traces of coconut in the cotton.

I could feel my freckles darkening,

the sun beating through my skin.

I could see the flower in her hair.

 

I pressed my lips to hers one last time

and called her abuela

How to wear makeup on the days you do not leave the house

Poetry

Put it on.

Pull the mascara wand through your eyelashes.

Do not think about it.

Do not talk yourself out of it.

Put it on.

Pull your hair into a low bun.

Do not smile.

You don’t have to.

Smile if you want to, the decision is yours.

Smile if you can, knowing that your lips, like the rest of your body, will follow the rules of gravity before consulting you.

Put it on.

Butter the tube of lipstick across your lips. 

Fill them in.

Shape them.

Brew tea when you’re finished

Drink the tea.

Notice the stamp of your lips on the mug.

Trace it.

Or take a picture.

Or just remember it.

Or do none of this.

Maybe you feel prettier when reading.

Maybe it’s exercising.

Maybe that is still unknown.

Maybe you do not feel pretty.

Maybe you like how it feels to wake up with swollen eyes.

Maybe crying is more effective than chamomile tea.

Put it on.

Do not think about it.

Do not talk yourself out of it.

Or do none of this.

Airport Heaven

Poetry

I use to fall asleep mid prayer,

trusting that a guardian angel would conclude 

the list of things I am grateful for.

 

I use to fall asleep mid prayer,

otherwise, I could not sleep.

I was told to thank God for the things I do not want to wake up without.

 

Waking up with a mouthful of unfinished prayers was a characteristic of mine.

The first seconds of consciousness pushing Hail Mary’s from my lips.

 

Last night, I fell asleep praying to the God of adrenaline.

I thanked her for each muscle in my body. I listed each one, starting with my eyes.

I want to wake up with all of me, even if all means cramped and uncomfortable.

I want to wake up pushing poetry into existence, calling it my child.

I want to nurture my words, I want them to feel the safety of living

between walls that do not change as the week progresses.

Wednesday evenings will mean nothing to them.

They will stay put: bags unpacked, underwear folded in the drawer where it belongs.

I will teach them to pray.

I will teach them to sleep when they are tired.

Eat when they are hungry.

Run when they must.

 

They will learn that it doesn’t matter whether you wake up with prayers or poetry.

What matters is what you notice.

What you notice latches onto your freckles, your moles, it tans your skin.

 

And if that is the case then my skin is tinted from an evening at the airport,

when the sun was setting, throwing the color of lemons and tangerines at the passengers.

The children playing chess,

a man drinking coffee with his legs propped on a suitcase,

a woman sat cross legged in a chair with her thumb and first finger are pressed together, 

squeezing her fingertips, fusing them into one. 

The wire from her ear buds fell down her chest, her eyes shut.

She does not know of the angel she has become.

No one in this airport knows of the angel they have become.

 

I do my best to keep track of the details, I do my best to remember what I’ve noticed.

–a purse balanced on a suitcase, a foil pouch of chocolate almonds in my lap–

My brother sits beside me. Like the rest of us, he is also an angel, wearing the descending sun like a halo.

Footnotes

Poetry

I.

Back and forth we went,

trying to remember the word for words 

that sound the same but are spelled differently.

A word from our youths when we were taught this 

phenomenon in a classroom. 

 

It was childish for us to be leaning back, arms crossed,

looking at each other. As if the word might appear without us trying.

Part of me wanted to let the word die in our forgetfulness.

 

Through and threw, I said 

lite and light, bare and bear.

 

Jean and gene, you added.

 

The other part of me wanted to remember.

 

Onomatopoeia! I said.

 

No, that’s a word that makes a sound like boom or zip.

 

A man at the table next to us leaned over.

 

I think the word you two are looking for is homophone.

 

We said the word in unison. It exhaled from our lips in shared relief. 

 

II.

And like the Buddha, my day of enlightenment has arrived.

Nothing is guaranteed except the past which reads like footnotes to reference all the love worth forgetting.

  1. Hands might help a man fall in love but not just from the sight of them
  2. Hoping he’d at least fall in love with my hands
  3. Never apologize for offering
  4. Journals are important like memory because
  5. one day, if this works out, we can talk about first impressions
  6. Healed through sleep? Or slept through the healing?
  7. Forgetting, once again, that days do not end like they begin
  8. If you tell him to try poetry, his eyes might widen and become stiff because you just described his recount of finding God as beautiful and poetic
  9. I drove home for the weekend and saw a new blue in the sky, the color of sleep. Mornings in October blue. The fog around my arms and torso blue. I saw new leaves and long, quiet fields as I drove (like Polish farmland). And I thought how appropriate it would be to fall in love during autumn. 
  10. Is he a good friend to his mother?
  11. How many colors do you sleep with?
  12. Need and knead
  13. Piece and peace
  14. Flower and flour
  15. Ewe and you

Herself in Numbers

Poetry

I’m learning to count behind the numbers

where Quantity keeps an inventory of all the ages you’ve been. 

You’ve been three, four, eighteen and twelve.

Thirty four, nineteen, seven. 

You’ve been behind the numbers without knowing it.

Like a slow reader trying to keep up with his classmates.

You are here.

They are there.

And this…

is where the numbers start to love you, lean into you, grow curious about you

this is where the numbers stare at you just like you’ve stared at them trying to calculate all they can do

I promise, Quantity does not want you divided away from her

You are not multipliable. 

You do not need to be added with something else to have value

You are value.

And Quantity only wants to take away the moments where you do not feel her 

Quantity only wants you to feel her.

Behind the numbers, behind the months, behind the letters

there is an inventory of growth that looks just like you.

It remembers the first time you heard an echo

The first time a laugh made you snort or cry

It remembers your first reflection

and it will remember your last.