Marking el Padre, el Hijo, y el Spiritu Santo, icy holy water
dribbles her knotted joints as the church door quietly seals
outside living din from black mourning hush. Breathing
prayers, myrrh-thickened air and honeyed light
flicker, she sidles into a hard wooden pew in the back, isolating
the grieving ceremonial intimacy of an unknown.
Jesus’s elongated abdomen curves sensuously. Unknown
indulgences temporarily mend memory: the slow pour of water
over naked sweaty feet with the first undressing. Isolating
his pungent odor, pressed hard against her cheek, she seals
her faith. Tangled together in relentless creeping light,
persecuted through colored glass, she listens closely for his breathing.
Instead she smells sad gluey lips unsticking while breathing
pleas escape an unforgivable god. (Treated like one unknown
by his own father who wholly denied his son’s only love in light
of garden vows sworn with blood-caked hands weltering water
on barbed hawthorns.) An oath made long before bell chimes seals
them into eternal obscurity. Dancing their longing, isolating
truth from afar, she bores into a pall-bearer’s being, isolating
the scuffled echoes of his shoe creases as the still breathing
papery, round Eucharist sticking to his mouth-roof seals
saliva pockets under his tongue like beautiful green unknown
lakes in charmed deserts. She feels the softness of water
slide around her weightless limbs and make her head light.
She watches his winding path around the church until light
shines his hair-curls like steel blades, isolating
a secreted instant after clients had gone and hot soapy water
had washed day into evening’s private bay. When silent breathing
him was. When comforting knowns steadied her despite unknown
futures. When reckless joy made them feel like wild seals.
Solemn movement lures her into the present: the stranger’s casket seals
the processional’s beginning. Sweet flower stench engenders light
wafting toward her disjointed mind as she meets the gaze of unknown
eyes trying to place the old woman in their mental lists, isolating
cousins and in-laws. Looking away, she meets Jesus’ open breathing
eyes as he falls for the second time. She touches dried holy water
feeling her own sternum unknown to all but him. She seals
her lips wishing for a sip of water and protection from light
knowing somewhere in her isolating labyrinth of confusion, he is breathing.
Hathor in Memphis (Tennessee): Remembers and Makes a Decision to Leave
Abruptly her son ceases cymbaling pot tops
to hear lonely first drops tinning the calcified kettle
bottom. She notices and turns to see frank brown
eyes. Progressive desperation fills the teapot overflowing
onto her veined wrists. Shaking beads into the air, an
indoor shower delights her little boy as she smiles, thinly
singing “raindrops keep falling on our heads!” He takes up
his cymbaling again as she wipes the wet spout and rests
the burdened kettle on the burner.
Pouring a cheerio pyramid onto his highchair tray she
kisses his little nose and feels his innocence warm
her chin. Picking potatoes and onions from the hanging
basket, dirt and papery-sheaths latch onto her fingers.
Refrigerator glare briefly lights the kitchen as she carefully
selects firm memories. Tiny pixeled men from her past
clutter the chopping board, hew-shadowing the dinner
preparation in shades of regret and laughter. Connecting
the dots of her past, she attempts a coherent image of
her present. Peeling thin skin, gouging eyes and unlayering layers.
But she is not a lover in the image she finally unwraps at
the center. She is the child-observer. The man, once beautiful,
strumming a guitar in his army uniform, now partially deaf and
missing a front tooth. The woman, once exquisite with her
shapely legs and vibrant blue eyes, now plumped and grey. The
revelation, as she chops onions, now a woman herself, is a
split-second look she witnessed in the between while playing
in her grandparents’ dining room. She glances up from paper
dolls, and catches – without realizing – the expectation of
enduring complicity: intricate love delicately nudged back
and forth between them. Her craving’s source now clear, she
dices a heart, grinding her present in the garbage disposal.
Jennifer Ferrara attended Oberlin (BA in literature) which she left for Manhattan (MFA in Acting at Columbia University). She lived in Buenos Aires for a year. For nearly a decade, she has lived in Rome, Italy where she teaches literature at an international high school.