It’s almost the end of April and I have burned everything from back home, including my old books. Some say I’ve desecrated my connection with my past, with my time in my homeland. But I do not care about their opinion. For a woman, the moment she realises for the first time what her capacities are, is like no other moment. She finds out there was power in everything the boys at school were mocking her for. Each word of wisdom from the old ladies in her life seems like a mantra of self-persecution now. Her mother and father were not trying to protect her, but to protect themselves. So, the woman finally understands that her truth has always been inside the flesh she wears, and she is finally able to wear it with pride.
I must get ready, and there is so much to be done. It’s been a long winter and I spent it afraid, withering in solitude, comforted only by my sour breath and occasional dreams in which my beloved grandmother talked to me about her life in the spirit world. Dying is easy and I could join her, she said, but I refused her invitation. My parents are too young to cry over my corpse. I’m not going to die, not yet. I might be skin and bone, but that’s not a sad diagnosis. The power is in the warmth of my womb. I’m ecstatic for the beginning of spring, and I flutter around the house like the moths that have found their ends in my afternoon cups of peppermint tea (yes, I drank the teas with the moths in them for good luck, but no one is sad about their absence so I don’t feel guilty).
Tomorrow is an important day. It’s time for the dictatorship of God, the Ruler, the Husband, or the Father to be replaced by the Goddess who encapsulates all her sacred feminine forms, from the Mother and the Wife, to the Solitary Priestess, the Protective Sister and the Queen of Knowledge.
I want to reclaim my true self through an army of worms and caterpillars. I have in my hair a flower crown made of wild-flowers, motherwort and rosemary, and two dried spiders I found pressed between the pages of a Latin dictionary bought from a second-hand bookshop when I’d just moved to this town.
The Lovers card is on my altar. My lovers who slept will now be awake and this is my promise of an idyll. I hope they’ll appreciate my offerings: milk chocolate, honey, dried apricots, raisins, and a small cotton bag filled with the teeth of my old cat, Lusi.
I told my mother when I left, ‘Mother, you think I’m going to be alone because you don’t believe in them, but I do, and they’ll open their moon and stars for me among the lilies, tulips, and lilac in my new garden.’ Mother smiled kindly and told me that she hadn’t thought about things that way, and what a wonderful daughter I was, but I knew she only said that to be polite. She won’t change her mind until she sees what I’m talking about. And she will.
There is not enough hot water in the house, but tonight I will bath in milk and charcoal salt, to make sure my skin is as soft and clean as my old sisters deserve to wear. When I’m done bathing, I’ll burn my sage and cast a circle of white candles around me, and sing to the spirits loud, from the bottom of my lungs.
O blood, O blood, how fluid and thick,
between your warmth and my skin
are these words carved with such artistry
I have done it again
taste it, dark red.
Plenty of things were hidden in her eyes, but her husband didn’t really notice any of them, partly because he lacked interest, partly because he’d been half in and half out of life for over a year. His unfortunate condition hadn’t stopped him from returning home though.
She had anticipated his return for months. Would he read the newspaper on his old armchair, she wondered, or swim in the early morning, before the sun came up bright and strong? Could he move back in, or is that not how death works? She didn’t know for certain what the rules were, but she liked the rhythm of her hopeful thoughts.
On the first night of his return, he arrived quiet as mist, touched with the smell of the woods and rain. In their old bed, she tossed, turned, and wept to hear his heavy voice coming from the walls, but she didn’t see him. ‘Is that you, my love?’ But she was sure it was him, that night and the following nights. At the moment gloaming set in, he would crawl back inside the thick walls and stay there until morning.
Her heart was troubled. ‘Why are you not talking to me? Please, tell me what you need, let me take care of you as I’ve always done!’ Days passed without an answer, and she decided it would be best to confront him. One evening, guided by a momentarily impulse of courage, she took a shovel from their barn and drove all the way to the graveyard where he had been laid to rest. Inside the wooden coffin, he was cold and waxen, his clothes dishevelled and mouldy, and his hair long and brittle. He was more maggoty carcass than man. After waiting by his grave in silence for hours, she realised her husband simply didn’t want to talk to her, then or ever. She left, saddened but proud of her courage.
On the way home, she grew afraid he might be disappointed by her impulsive behaviour. Who am I to disobey my husband, she thought, he always cherished his privacy and now I’ve gone too far, what if things get fraught? But everything was alright. When she arrived home, he was waiting in his old armchair, reading the newspaper with his empty eye sockets, the coffee he drunk spilling through the holes in his cheeks.