Posted on: Tuesday, May 24, 2016

My mother's eyes

Picture the translucent skin of an onion peeling back from the bulb. Picture the way the light would diffuse, illuminating the bulb. That's what I picture when I think of my mother's left eye. A bulb in the hand, a layer peeling away, the diffused, filmy light. I know that's not how eyes work precisely, but the mysterious mechanics only make sense to me divorced of terms like "vitreous fluid" and "macula" and "retina." But it's simple, really. Nature makes perfect sense until it doesn't. Where once light translated to sight, it no longer does.

I want to say she's going blind, but it's a past perfect sort of truth: she has gone blind, at least in that eye. She woke up one Friday in April, and after a few weeks of pepper-specks and flashes of light in that eye, the layer of her retina had come curling back (like wallpaper? like paint peeling from a wooden slat?) and everything had gone hazy.

In a hospital bed far from home that night, she clenched her fists and wept at a loss that loomed dark around the corners of her vision. Things she could physically no longer see and things she imagined she'd never see again. The shape of her oldest granddaughter's eyes might be gone, and the color, the unfathomable deep brown that shines like polished mahogany. Her grandson's one brown-flecked blue eye. Her other granddaughter, whose eyes glow honey-gold and green in just the right light.

How much light is lost before it's actually gone, when you feel like you may never see clearly again? Do you swirl it up like ice cream on a spoon, do you savor it like iced tea on a hot day? How much will you miss on the morning walk to the garden, the tiny bugs dancing out from under your feet, the perfect red roundness of a cherry tomato in summer? The rainbow feathers of your chickens clucking and cooing in the henhouse. The clean, crisp lines of your husband's motorcycle shining in the driveway. What about the things you saw two months ago, or a year ago, or twenty years ago, these things you may never see again. Where do they go? To the fuzzy, imperfect inside corners of a memory? Reduced to a feeling that gets a little less sharp every time you call it up?

My mother clutches her faith to her chest today and wonders if she will go blind. She clutches her faith to her chest and wonders what will happen next. My mother, who pinned her hopes for the future on whether her vision would be restored after surgery, clutches her faith to her chest and grapples now with uncertain darkness. A day in front of her. Two days. Many days. A whole life stacked up, darkness upon darkness. She pulls her faith away from her chest and examines its indistinct edges, holds it up to the light, and wonders if she's going to die this way: blind and alone, haunted by things unseen.

Posted on: Thursday, January 7, 2016


When I tell you you're beautiful I'm not talking about magazines, the glossy hair and the smoky eyes and the just-right smile that belong to the waiting arms of society's embrace. I am talking about you in the half-light of the evening, the way your profile glows in the shadowy dark. The way the curves of your cheeks make just the right shape. Your lips are thin and your mouth is down-turned while you read and the word "perfect" burbles to my own mouth before I can stop it. You are perfect, every bit of you, the gangly long legs and the thick eyelashes that close over your star-bright brown-green eyes. You are not a hair commercial, you are not a movie heroine. You are the pinnacle, though. Every inch of you just makes sense. The very you of you -- you, in the world. It's the most beautiful thing there is.

Posted on: Friday, December 4, 2015

Her strength.

She says her arms are threaded up, that it feels like the threads are pulling through her skin. "Now imagine the thread unraveling slowly, and that's what my anxiety feels like. And the threads go faster and faster, and then I just fall apart so quickly."

She has scratch marks on her cheeks because scratching her cheeks feels good, but then she has to make the scratches even. One scratch down on the left, one scratch down on the right. Again and again.

She pushes her teeth because her teeth "feel weird."

She had a panic attack, hyperventilating outside of the school office, crying and gagging.

She is eight-years-old, and it isn't fair. It just isn't fair that the world assaults her this way. The fear and the tears in her green-brown eyes. When she's happy they look like the light shining through an overhead canopy of leaves in the late parts in summer. When she's sad they are a torment, a storm rolling over mountains.

But I don't want to write poetry about her anxiety, about her innocence, about a childhood laced in irrational panic.

Yesterday she did her multiplication homework and put her spelling words in alphabetical order. She played Crossy Road on her Kindle. She ate a hot dog and pretzels and read the second Percy Jackson book. She stepped gingerly through mud on a walk and caught a toad in her hands.

Yesterday I watched her run fearlessly into the darkening night, her purple-sequin cardigan dipping low on her back, baring her pale, delicate shoulders to the descending cold.

She could raise a whole city on those small shoulders. She could balance the rising moon.

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