Saturday, April 20, 2013

Memories of Nesting

The Echo of What Remains Collected Poems of Wanda Lea Brayton

Inspired by Edna St. Vincent Millay's poem "Childhood is the Kingdom Where Nobody Dies"

Memories of nesting rise into dream, 
a knowledge of something sacred, lost to the morning mist; 

the child within mourns far beyond this veil of ascending sunlight,
remembering the onset of shadows, 
keeping what treasures remained hidden. 

For the shroud does not discriminate - 
it engulfs young and old alike. 

A child feels this certainty in her bones, 
although knowledge cannot be bartered
and questions burst forth 
without answers truly being sought.

No one ever tells us anything, she sulks, 
wise in her gratitude for this omission of guilt. 

Everything that dies matters to someone, she thinks, 
still selfless and bold in her innocence. 

Even baby birds must be grieved as they fall 
away from their cradled sanctuary,
unable to fly, not yet aware of their wings. 
She had crept from her bed as cats prowled nearby, 
loving their contentment, appalled at their searches for prey. 
She would hold the tiny fledgling as it took its final gasp 
and acknowledge it as song. 

She would perform a memorial of silent flowers fragrant with dew, 
swaddling their final bed with her tears,
weeping for their loss of sky. 

There was a boy who rode his new bike 
as if he was challenging the wind to unseat him 
from his shining throne. 

Hair flying behind him, 
he never felt the car that hit him, sending him into an early grave 
as his parents tore their hearts for giving him this gift, 
this twisted receptacle of his final dreams. 
The girl who had admired his courage and speed saw him

laying diminished in a wooden box.
She never spoke his name again, not even as she aged, 
for she was sure he never had, and waited for her still. 

She saved the tiny rabbits from their inevitable demise, 
carried them home in a cardboard box layered 
with new-mown grass 
and poked full of holes 
so they could breath fresh air,  
confident she could raise them to their intended height 
so they might understand 
the fields beneath their padded feet. 

All but one survived, 
her unspoken favorite, who lay stiff without ever knowing 
the subtlety of a flower's caress. She planted him in the garden, 
sure he would still bloom somehow, 
although the adults would not, could not understand 
her wailing for something so small and insignificant.

Everything that dies matters to someone, she thinks, 
still selfless and bold in her innocence. 

Soon, she was too big to kiss her father, he said, 
pushing her away into darkness where she stayed, curled 
into a small corner, thinking she would perish 
because he no longer loved her, if ever he had. He turned in silence, 
contempt curling his lip with cruelty. She never forgot 
this appellation of terror that furrowed her brow, 
that caused her to tremble whenever a stranger 
tried to touch her, for it is our fathers who teach us 
how to love and be loved - 
or not. 

She was pulled into cavernous churches where empty shells lay, 
bereft of shining souls that once dwelled within those borrowed bones. 

She never knew them, she only knew it was "our duty to show respect" 
for these anonymous creatures, who someone had once loved. 
Everything that dies matters to someone, she thinks, 
still selfless and bold in her innocence. 

With her mother's voice calling, she would run 
to gather bouquets from their garden to decorate 
someone's resting place and she grew tired 
of the ceremonies never attended by life. She once declared, 
"When I die, I will simply disappear from view and no one 
will even notice I'm gone until it is time for work to be done 
and there is no one left to do it!" 
then quietly cried when she was beaten 
for speaking the truth in an era when children 
were to only be seen and never, ever heard. 
She never was.

Creeping slowly and stiffly from her bed
and cradling her warm cup in her aching hands, 
she recalls these incidents from so long ago, wondering why 
they have come back to her now, when age has set in, 
has made her more comfortable with the idea 
of terrors in the night that have no shape or definition. 

She has known the warm blanket of love 
her husband wrapped around her, providing a solace 
she'd never known before he came to her door 
with purple tulips wilting in his well-traveled hands.  
He carried her away on a northern breeze, setting her free 
into the clarity of a cloudless sky, a kite without a string 
to bind her to the earth. He knows my heart well, she thinks, 
smiling at his tenderness and bravery. 
When the chill settles into the room at night 
where she sleeps, or tries to, 
she knows her fear is boundless, 
and fathoms deep, 

for the shroud does not discriminate - it engulfs young and old alike. 
She has finally grown up, and old