novena to the wind

It is a kind of dance – tarantella?

One arm raised high and the rest of you in shadow.


When I was a girl, we used to dance in the high-ceilinged halls, strings of colored lights hung from window frames. At the tables, placecards with our names. One family function or another. A cousin’s communion or the wedding of a godmother’s best friend’s daughter. It did not matter. Any occasion called for celebration.

Everybody danced. Pitchers of red sangria on the tables and carafes of homemade wine. Platters of broiled codfish with lemon slices and sprigs of thyme. Asparagus braised in butter. Then later, crème caramel and pastry. Espresso with a fine grate of lemon zest.

We children danced until we collapsed on the floor, our patent leather shoes scattered and scuffed.

We should probably agree which part of the memory is mine and which is yours to alter.

Do you not remember it this way?


Beneath the concrete wall, the delicate fishbone structure.

Beneath every structure, a fine complexity of bone.

In the corner of a ruined room. Wallpaper hanging down in limp strips. A standing figure with arms outstretched. A dark beam across the top of the frame that calls to mind: cross, crucifix, crucifixion, then the paper too much like flayed skin.

A woman crouches in a corner, her long skirt pooling on the cracked and broken ground.

What imprints do we leave here, what shadows.


Each memory a bead on a string. If this is our novena, then let us kneel here to pray. If these are our petitions, then let us bring them to the stone altar of the city. Posture of prayer. Posture of supplication.

If these are our holy things – memory, desire – then let us bless them and raise them up. Let us lift them in offering and watch them as they drift on indifferent wind.