Home > Mutating the Signature > Dear Seven: A Circle of Epistles (4)

Dear Seven: A Circle of Epistles (4)

March 9, 2009

Part 4 in a series of 7

Dear Cecilia,

I would have written sooner but this week I was sick with not a bad cold but a good one, the kind that leaves you so tired and dizzy you want only to sleep, and sleeping is justified. So while Mike wrote and fixed things and went to the Y I drifted through dreams: my brother, a child again, waving a jeweled bug full of precious, poisonous serum; a room of watery green; an art gallery where a toddler clung to George Bush’s legs and said Grandpa, Grandpa. Now I am better.

Since we don’t know each other well it might be good to ask questions:

  • Do you like Japanese movies?
  • Under what circumstances would you fire a gun?
  • What has more poetry in it: a fire or a swing?

One day of my childhood I sat on a swing with a wide wooden seat. I was alone, it was sunny, two stout ropes disappeared into the leaves above me. The swing creaked under me. The air tasted of morning. I have looked for that swing ever since.

Cecilia is my mother’s name and I always wished it were mine, musical name like the three-note song of a bird, name of the patron saint of music. My mother had a small marble carving of St. Cecilia lying dead, a gash in her neck to show how they couldn’t behead her (at first). While Mary the Mother of God was, after all, only a mother, meaning laundry and dishes, the odd night out at a wedding. When I spent my Communion money to baptize a pagan baby in China, I named her Cecilia.

Yesterday I put away all my garden pots, first soaking them in water. The pots come from the Dominican Republic, China, Italy, USA — their origins stamped into the clay. But no sign of the hands that slopped the clay into molds, carried them to the kilns for firing. I soak the pots because clay dries out over time, and then the soil in the pots dries out too quickly. When you plunge a dry clay pot into water it sings for a long time, hissing teakettle notes as water finds its way back into the spaces. In the spring I will fill them again with dirt and then marigolds, geraniums, lobelia, coleus.

One of the nuns next door is Italian, so they chat in Italian while unloading the groceries or grilling on their tiny back porch. They do not know much about St. Cecilia, but they are dedicated to St. Francis, patron saint of animals and the environment. Yesterday they poured us shots of sambuca for a Thanksgiving toast. Sambuca has the sting of black licorice, is made with star anise and elder flowers. My fingers, coiled around the glass, were stained with dirt. The drink lit a sweet fire in my throat before I went back to soaking the pots.

May words be a sweet fire in your throat, Cecilia.

Mary

by Mary Hawley

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