Somehow in the midst
of a womandance,
whirling scarves and sacred secrets
a story steeped in sweetness
like strong, spiced tea beckons.
The storyteller (dancer, teacher, sister)
struggles to contain this rogue spirit.
It is leaping now through fair,
transparent glassy skin,
most often shielded
She tells how she danced and sang
for her dead grandmother
How she praised her with words
like rose petals wrapped in gauzy melody
A silky path for her departing spirit
How lucky, both, for this final communion
This merging, an opportunity
to have gleaned wisdom
from one who has lived well and now
who has died well.
And we around her weep
Strong salted tears for our own mothers
and our daughters
and for our own unwelcome mortality.
And I am stricken with the sadness
that I never knew my own grandmothers
The one who died in the aftermath of malaria
and moments before her familiar world
would have crumbled
as a larger world began to swallow
those she loved
What I have of her resides in stories
passed through her daughter to me
of this old world woman who shaved her
head at the marriage altar
as was her duty.
But the tale that lives in me, through me,
reflects that same devout and pious woman
setting candles on her kitchen floor
and weaving an exotic dance around them
as she had seen gypsies do that very night.
Her desire to capture
the fire of life
would weave its way
through the generations
where each woman that followed
could add her own flaming thread
and add to the tapestry
Or that other tale, revealing untold yearnings
when she danced upon a wedding table
with the groom she could not make her own
as dictated by tradition
and heard him shout to all who could hear
"Now I don't care if I die!"
and she could carry that with her
to her death, his eternal gift,
which would be enough.
And my other grandmother
Whose name I carry
along with a secret touchstone.
As her world closed in
she buried all her gold
and marked the spot for her son
who returned when she was only
smoke and memory
and found his treasured mother's
all her dear familiar rings and chains
and made a bracelet, pink and solid,
timeless in it's beauty
and now it is mine.
of a grandmother I never knew
but who I wear upon my wrist
where I can feel my pulse
beating her name.
I too dance for my dead grandmothers
for their joy and their sorrows
lost loves, mothertears,
for their early leaving,
for the gifts they left me.
They call to me
bid me remember-
no graves to mark
I carry the stones in my heart.