Nancy: How I loved it when Aunt Nannie (my grandmother’s aunt) visited. “What have you been doing, child,” she asked as I sat on her bed while she unpacked her suitcase full of salves and tinctures and told stories her own aunts and grandmothers had told her.
Aunt Nannie – her ghost, actually
but not at all
her ghost came in and stood behind me.
fresh ironed starched cotton
I was filling a rough brown vase with late flowers
and scarlet leaves and my hand stopped
Aunt Nannie, who loved flowers
Aunt Nannie, who loved bright colors
Aunt Nannie, who loved me
stood behind me
(I know she was smiling)
Lordy Lordy, she said
Lordy Lordy, child
I could hear the smile.
Alan: Some things you never get over. You may get used to them, but they are always there.
When they took it away from you,
When they took away the he and she of it,
the unnamed name of it,
the unlived life of it.
When they put you back in your own life
to stagger forward as best you could,
it followed. On its tiny imagined feet
it followed you, all those decades
to now, to this late August day.
When, once again, staring out at the gravel
and the grass cut short as a shorn sheep and as pale,
you remember – can’t help but remember –
when they took it away from you.
When they didn’t.
In the graveyards of Japan, under the dripping pines,
the stone Jizos stand or sit in meditation along the walls,
the mossy stones, and at the intersections of paths.
These are not the tall monk
with his staff and wish-fulfilling gem
but small things, alike or almost so, with
outsized infant heads and barely suggested hands
raised in prayerful greeting. Some
wear knitted baby hats or bibs.
If you took Jizo and placed him,
with reverence and perhaps some tears,
on your garden wall, in a niche
or at the base of a flowering shrub,
or even on your desk or bedside table,
it would not finally go away – it will never
go away – but it would at least
acquire form. This emptiness, at last,
would take form.