Monthly Archives: April 2009

of her


marbleShe still smiles at most everything, but she is losing more cognitive ability, more and more associations to words and meaning. Last week, she did something so bizarre that it shocked me, and I realized how far gone she is in this disease, which I just want to go away but which is taking her away instead.

And then there are times when some old piece of her rears its head and equally breaks my heart. My brother was telling us about the time he hired on as a merchant marine hand, and the ship he was on went to Cairo, Egypt, and how he and crew members had hired camels and trekked into the great Sahara to see the mighty pyramids, and how they were mighty, magnificent, amazing to see.

I have always wanted to see them, I said.

We should go, piped in my mother with all her old spirit. We laughed, my brother and I, in surprise and pleasure at her enthusiasm, and she because, well, because she has a laughing heart. Oh, we should, I thought, my dear, dear mother, but it will be in another life for you and me––moments like this, when I see her old self both gladden and hurt me beyond words.



That crack in the narrative I talked about blog before last….the story isn’t going where I thought it was. The story that take my imagination is the one about the man in the iron mask, not the story on Louis XIV’s struggle to outwit his superintendent of finance without starting a war. I just threw the man in the iron mask in as a fun poke at Alexandre Dumas and because it’s such a wonderful, juicy French myth, like our Johnny Appleseed or Paul Bunyan or maybe Bigfoot. And yet it has the strongest grip on the story.smallking

Legend has it that when the Bastille was stormed in 1789, a skeleton was found with an iron helmet locked onto his head to hide his face. That isn’t true. I’ve read that there was a mysterious prisoner during the time of Louis XIV who wore a small, silk mask who was treated withe exquisite politeness and whose identity was never determined, that there was never an iron mask.  However, the famous philosopher, historian, and writer Voltaire wrote to friends about a prisoner “of an extremely handsome and noble appearance” who wore an iron mask and died in 1703, no one ever knowing who he was. The stuff of legend, and it’s certainly taken my story.

ruby guard

I had a haiku hiccup out one evening this week. I was in bed writing in my journal, when the sensation of being watched felt strong. I looked up, and there Ruby sat on the chest of drawers, her green rubyeyes on me. She reminded me of a sentry on duty. My sister, a dog person, firmly believes animals are guardians sent to watch over us. Another cat came to mind, a willful, whining beauty named Sadie. She assumed my only role was her every whim, and I used to joke that in a past life she had been a temple cat and I had been the slave who failed in my duty to her, and so had to repeat that duty this life. I have a different sense of Ruby. Happy because the urge to haiku meowed, I scratched my pen across a white page playing with syllables and came up with this. Billy Collins need have no fear, but how I love this form of poetry. It’s like playing.

 on the chest she sits

patiently–great temple cat

guarding the goddess

Who guards you?