The sky above my mother’s house

If healing means to make whole, as Michael Meade claims, then what part of me is missing?

I have a hole in my chest a mile wide.
Where is that mile-wide piece of me?
Is it coiled and crouched underneath my bed,
assailing me through the night with its raspy breath?
Is it a ribbon circling my mother’s house,
peering in the windows looking for a trace of her?
Is it a flock of birds flown south calling promises
to return in the spring? In the spring
it will have been one year since she shed her skin like a snake
and slithered away. Only the coldest, darkest nights lie
between now and then. Will I make it through?
My face alone stares back at me through the glass.
The sky above my mother’s house is a cloth pierced through
by a sharp-tipped needle pulling threads in all directions,
burrowing, tunnelling, searching for the memory of light.
I can’t remember light.

Collage intertwined with paper strings, by Pnina Vitaly.

I swear sometimes my mother brings me art and poems to help me evacuate* feelings I can’t identify. Yesterday she sent me a poem by Jaime Manrique that seemed to be in conversation with an amazing collage by Pnina Vitaly that found me not an hour later. I don’t know if my poem is ekphrastic in the true sense. What I know is that Manrique’s poem and Pnina Vitaly’s collage stayed with me all day, and when I read Michael Meade’s assertion that healing means to make whole, it prompted a question whose answer was this poem. Maybe that makes it a combistory.

*Evacuate is not the word I would have chosen in this context—I meant to write excavate. But evacuate feels more accurate—it means to remove from a place of danger to a safe place. I have been carrying feelings for months that I can’t identify or express, and the weight of them feels dangerous. I’m grateful to the artists who are nudging them loose, because as Michael Meade also says in his essay, “there can be no true healing unless the original split is touched.”

Pnina Vitaly lives, creates and teaches art in Israel. Her work moves me deeply, particularly her mixed media pieces with paper threads and haunting images.

The photo of the house that accompanies this post on the homepage is by Cindy Tang on Unsplash.

6 Responses to “The sky above my mother’s house”

  1. Joan Conway

    Leslie, not only is your mother bringing you poems and art, which I do believe she is, she is also bringing you images of the most exquisite texture for your own writing. You are touching your heart in a beautiful profound opening as you share. Thank you for this.

    • commatologist

      Thank you, Joan. She is, isn’t she? I’m learning to pay closer attention.

  2. carin

    I saw a quote today and thought of you. It was about the way grief appears at the least expected times, while driving, doing dishes, weeding the garden, and how the sadness of missing someone you love can be so great it’s physically painful.

    Evacuate is a much a better word. A beautiful word. For exactly the reasons you say. Another gift from her no doubt… xo


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