Saturday, September 11, 2010
Dancing With Myself + My Adopted Girl
The non-reaction to my last poem, Virginia Dare, which I thought was just pret-ty damn good, has me feeling like throwing away all my pens (I'll pierce myself and use blood if I need to make a grocery list) and throwing the chains around the door at Danny's Coffee Shop. Whose idea was all this poetry-writing junk anyway? So that's it, no more poems in perpetuity, or until I stop being a pissy, impossible bitch, whichever comes first.
I am thinking of starting a self-help group for Women Whose Emotions Sometimes Lead Them Around By The Nose. There is no venue large enough in Detroit, and so we are thinking of using the Rogers Centre in Toronto. There will be no speakers. You just get up there and shriek or cry or swear, as the spirit moves you. Or, you can just refuse to leave your seat, huddled miserably with a tub of Ben & Jerry's on each armrest. Everyone's former lovers will be trooped in, roped, and then trucked to a landfill. Horrid Lifetime movies will be shown on a big screen. Anyone who survives the weekend gets to go back to work on Monday. Yeah, I know....I'm still tweaking it.
So, poetry is out. But my hands twitch if I don't write. So let's try this: the story of my adopted girl, Delilah. I have posted this story a couple of times in other people's comments, but here it is on the Word Garden stage for the first time. Enjoy. Me, I'm going to go look in the mirror and cringe, then cut all my hair off with a jack-knife. You know....girl stuff.
There is a place hidden between two apartment complexes that I used to deliver the mail to. It's easy to miss. From the street, there is only a sign and one narrow driveway leading up through overgrown greenery. You can't see what's back there without driving down it. It starts out black-topped but quickly turns to gravel, or, in the Spring, mud. But if one perseveres, after about a quarter mile, there is a cemetery there. I used to like to eat my lunch back there.
It's quiet and there is never anyone there except perhaps another person sitting in their car, seeking a moment's respite from their day. I've been going there for fourteen years now and have only seen one or two people, ever, visiting a grave. Sometimes city workers are there, but that's not the same.
Time seems suspended in this place. The trees are large and ancient. The stones date from the early 1800's. Entire families are buried there. The stones go right up to the edge, facing the wild bushes and nuisance trees that conceal the apartments beyond. There are hedgehogs and crows there. When I first visited, there was a great deal of statuary on top of the markers, weeping angels and innocent cherubs forever watching over their people. Not long after that, though, all the figures disappeared. I don't know if they were targeted by thieves--I know this happens--or if they were removed to foil the thieves, but the effect was the same; the little cemetery's "soul" was injured. I can feel it. It weeps.
Near the place where I used to like to park, there is a family plot. There is a large central marker for Cornelius and Nancy. Arrayed to either side of them are their children. On the right, tilted in the ground, is a heartbreakingly small stone with the name "Delilah" on it and nothing else. A check of the side of the larger marker beside it reveals the words "Our daughter. Delilah. Died Dec. 26, 1840. Aged Four mos., 20 days." Little Delilah was someone's precious baby. Her first and only Christmas was almost certainly marked by illness and grief, as she passed the very next day, her life spanning only from late summer to early winter.
Something about this one little girl, in this hidden and forgotten cemetery, went straight to my heart and has stayed there ever since. It would be fair to say that I have adopted her. I visit her and talk to her. I keep her marker clean. I want her to know that, though she lived only so briefly, so long ago, that she matters to someone, even now. It would be fair to say, I have come to love her. I don't think that is morbid or crazy. It is just a gift that costs me nothing.
Her mother, Nancy, lived until 1890. Doing the backwards math, she was just a girl of eighteen when she bore her daughter. How hard it must have been to love her and have to let her go so soon. And now Nancy herself has been gone for more than a century, even after a long full life.
I went to see them yesterday. I think they know that I do this, wherever their spirits are. Then I drove back down the long gravel path and out, the dust rising behind me like a ghost. See you next time, ladies. Then I was back to my day, with work to do. Life goes on. For me. For now. You know?