- A darling, and: Historical Record, and: Promises in the attic, and: The shards, blooming,
When my sisters found the deer's body in our backyard, wide-eyed and pointing at the carcass (a darling, my sisters said), I knew I had seen a picture of the darlingin my mother's lap, tearing herself out of a picture book.
I reached for the deer's head but my sisters tsked and scolded, and ran home in fits of shrieks. I thought of the dead leaf smell of autumn, the cool breath of my mother when she read out loud in the evening, windows left open, in a bedroom with three girls. My sisters and I peered over her shoulder to see the last picture of a deer.When I said please, my mother began the story again.
I was feverish, my mother held my head in her lap and combed my hair with her fingers. The fine minutes severed into this ephemera: a mother, her hands, pure and divine and healing. When I would fake illness, and put my head in her lapshe would shoo me away.
I dug at the earth with my tree branch I did not see the buzzards drag the darling, eat at her coat. I pulled at weeds and vines and small branches tore at grasses. I lifted the deer's head,fur matted and blood-stained and rested her cheek over my legs. [End Page 68]
My mother, drawing my hair behind my ears says darling please, darling rocking with my head in her lap, I have imagined the plea soft and barely audible. I was ashamedto have imagined it at all.
I covered the large eyes of the deer watching me and not watching me. I covered the body of the animal. My blood and her blood covered the debris. I worked like this until I heard my sisters' voicesfar away and close to the house I was afraid
I could get caught like that, burying what was theirs.
My mother thought that, if her daughters were to bury her when she died, it could be one way.She could choose to rest beside the other Westlaketombstone under a maple tree. There could be two of them.
We would only have to walkacross one path and only several graves
to visit the Wright Brothers and Dunbar,all three of them on the same plot of land.I remember, of course, the story of it.The Wrights demanding the body of their poet friend,
their insistence on family,their fear of his legacy forgotten.Or if my mother could be buried with the Van Cleves,she could overlook the towers with the family who [End Page 69]
founded her great city. Her bones could decomposeand the city could decompose in her likeness.
She thought that, maybe, she could be historic.Maybe her daughters could visit once a yearon Memorial Day. We could leave flowers, small stones, or our shiniest coins.
My mother taught us the story of them:to leave a penny meant we had only known her,had we left our dirty nickels, we would have trainedher for this terrible life war. To leave a dime
would mean we had served with her in the thickof it. And a quarter meant we were therewhen she died. My sisters could come backto Dayton and leave bright copper pennies.
My mother thought it could be only one way.She would die and I would dig and digher grave, plant her there, and she would growinto the city. She would nurture it that way.
How could any mother possibly think of it?How a daughter can think of it another way, how a daughter could be buried first?
A mother could not even conceive of it.
My mother could choose my plot of land, refuseto leave any coins.
She could say, Darling, I did not knowthe war was thriving inside your body.My dear girl, how can I live nowthat you have buried the war within you. [End Page 70]