Imagine this. All morning, Mary, the youngest,
on the cusp of it all (it all), mute, long stare
as if a trance. Returning from church,
she speaks again. Says I don’t know you.
Says Don’t call me Mary. My name is Rita.
Says Take me back. My family. I miss them.
Says Now. Says Please.
Adolescents, already so absent.
Always spinning. Hoping to whirl away.
Not yet realizing. There’s so few places to go.
That most come back sooner. Maybe later.
Daughters the worst for this desiring.
For this space.
As one who loves, there’s nothing but to listen.
Despite having heard the body of Rita L-
was found this morning. Snuck away
to meet a boy in the night.
Perhaps eloping. Girl children
always escaping. Attempting.
(Imagine if such release can be borne.)
Knock on the door. Not even getting out
My daughter awakened believing
she is yours before the girl has thrown herself
into the other’s arms. Cries Mother.
Recognizes everyone. Knows where
the teapot is kept. Which canister
holds the leaves. Gives Mrs. L–
two lumps in hers. Asks
if you prefer lemon or cream.
Despite having made your tea
since she was eight. Despite never having seen
a lemon. This world run over with such ruptures
when we can bear to look.
What else then to consider.
Too cruel not to leave her behind
yet all the way home That was not
Mary’s body at the bottom of that hole,
well cover rotten above. But never a question.
Never how. Never why.
Presenting this story to students
I say a different time. Provide explanations.
Like epilepsy. Like morphine, opium. Like hysteria.
Use time to create space. Still, all things
potentially spongy. No vigilance ever enough.
Later, I read Down in the hole, lingeringly,
the gravedigger puts on the forceps
then sleep the whole night through.
Another day. Footsteps on the porch.
A knock against the door.
On the other side, Mary.
Her body now pushing breasts.
Says Mother again, then tears.
Mrs. L– also weeping. Having wept
the entire way. She’s done I think.
Gone. Vanished once more.
(Imagine losing the same one twice.)
Girl children the worst of all.
For space. For desire. For living in this world.
This world with all its days.
Copyright © Tanya Olson
Curator's Notes: Niki Herd
I love Olson's imagery and the complexity she brings to the page. She takes a tough subject matter and makes it relevant and new.