The song of Marguerite: Down with the sky
by Shawnacy Perez
Marguerite was a slight thing.
An ‘eh’ of a girl, her father had said, once, shrugging, to a friend
In the days when she would wash his dishes and sit in the blue wash of the television
Tracing swirling galaxies and visual interpretations of the Fibonacci sequence in the carpet pile
with an unloaded Browning .22,
Gripping the barrel like a pencil,
While he conducted ‘business’ with shady looking gentlemen
At the corner table.
It was the ragged, whip-tail end of winter then. Seems like it was always winter, in those days.
There had never been any mother, and it was the landlady who had given her the name.
It’s a kind of daisy, she’d been told, but daisies always smelled to her like dog shit.
So she was slight in her thanks as well.
Regardless, Marguerite grew up, as tradition and biology mandate,
And her father one day gave her fifty dollars in greased-over fives and ones and told her to ‘scram,’
Mumbling to himself about worthless girls that can’t even get themselves respectably
Knocked-up and become some other man’s burden.
She sized him up, there in the doorway, the sovereign nation, the homeland patria of her pilgrim self.
It wasn’t pretty,
That weed-choked field from which she’d sprung.
But hers was a tough breed of flower, and she watched him for a moment- sad coat,
Hands of discontent, muttering through some papers in a drawer in the dim brown atmosphere
Of the hallway.
And she turned and set sail.
Or, she tried.
Seas are so rarely smooth for the unfortunate.
And before she knew it seven years had slipped by
Stealing time like bases,
Under the increasingly frustrated pitcher’s gaze of Marguerite
Waiting tables and hoping for a double
‘Cause the rent’s past due, and that man of hers didn’t turn out to be
Quite the noble-soul, soldier-poet she’d conjured when they met that day
On the library steps-
She with her arms full of integral calculus, still wearing her work apron and shoes,
He, sitting alone with an open book of Ginsberg’s finest on the step beside him.
(The mini-bottle of Gordon’s sitting open at his other hand might have been a red flag,
But she wasn’t on the lookout for flags then ((young people so often aren’t)),
And she chose to interpret the gleam of crazy in his brown eyes as ardent daring.)
These days she didn’t bother to bring home the textbooks,
Having packed away the dream of University in a neat little strongbox
on a tender metal shelf in her heart
For the last time a few months past,
When the parallel pink lines that appeared after three endless, nail-biting minutes on the
Edge of the tub, made that same organ simultaneously throb and take wing-
And throb and sink.
Cut to some bleak time in November of the next year. The man, having found fresher fields to plow,
Had been gone since the greyhazy end of summer when her uniforms had begun to grow snug.
She didn’t mind.
Green things had begun to grow and tendril around the edges of her dreams
And flash-images of tiny fingers and gold-fine hair and rocking-chair evenings occupied the
Backporches of her thoughts,
And the dingy little set of rooms began to fill with humming, and a hitherto unsupposed softness.
And then came the night.
That dead frozen 3am when she was wrenched from sleep
By the rusty metal-grinding of premature contractions.
Like a Komatsu excavator scraping out everything inside her with a
40-year-old, lace-corroded, jag-toothed scoop.
And she cried out and dragged herself to the bathroom where she gasped and clutched
And watched all the delicate dreaming and fragile song, slop to a bloody mass on the chipped-linoleum floor,
Expelled by a cruel, traitorous body.
Just another stain to scrub out.
She spent a day on the bathroom floor.
So terribly empty.
The vacant space inside her, universe-sized. And dry-ice cold.
At last, she rose, and with chattering teeth,
Lifted the small, intestine-colored body, and wrapped it in a clean kitchen towel,
And placed her (it was a girlchild) in an old shoebox that had once held
Photographs she never cared to look at.
She showered on unsteady legs and dressed and walked down Ratchet Street with her baby dead
In a box under her arm.
She caught a bus and sat in the back with a homemade coffin on her lap.
And when she stood to leave, there was a small lemniscate-shaped stain on the chair.
Infinities of sadness.
She walked through the park, with the bitter biting wind against her too-thin coat-
Inside her too-thin skin.
For a while she shivered on a bench, watching.
Fathers with daughters, tucking them up tight, in scarves of
Smiles and loving concern, kicking up leaves and laughing at the algorithmic antics of silver-necked birds.
Mothers with babies, pushing them through tearing winds to safety; pushing toddlers on swings,
Teaching them to fly.
Lovers wrapped in coats and pulled-down hats; hands, words, hearts spliced together, inextricable.
Making springtime of ruthless November, leaving trails of the golden-shining sun on the path behind them
As they walked, leaning into one another-
Warm and tangible amid the scraping of dead leaves.
And somewhere inside the struts of a dam were creaking.
Turning her gaze to the harsh gunmetal sky, she willed it to crash.
To fissure and crack and break and bleed and come hurtling to the ground in huge, nation-sized shards
To lodge in the face of this low, treacherous planet, like window glass.
Down with the Sky.
And the first piece for her.
Fast and blinding.
If there were any mercy.
She took the box that once held old memories and now held old hope,
And knelt down at the base of a mammoth, hulking oak. She should have protection was her thought.
And she began to dig; fingernails and knuckles on the rock-hard earth,
Cluttered with roots and iced-over mud.
Three uneartlhy hours.
She took no notice of the bloody smudges she left on the box as she lifted it.
Such aching tenderness there is in the cradling of a child.
Her caught breath on the box-lid was a prayer. Her last, perhaps.
A steamed exhalation of every hidden living thing she contained.
Only desert remained.
The hole she had dug seemed Zeno-bottomless as she reached and reached- shoulder rubbing against
Exposed roots- to position the box.
The only home she would ever give her baby girl.
Looking into the space made her dizzy, and she clutched a fistful of the loose earth meaning to
Fill in the emptiness and be done.
But she found she could not. A small dusting of dirt had shaken down on top of the lid and she reached
In to brush it away.
NO! Nothing must cover her face.
Marguerite gave a little cry and began to push away the mounds of dirt from the edge of the hole.
Her child would not be
Drowned in dirt, swallowed by the cold, merciless earth.
She would see the sky.
She would never see the sky.
One final moan, and the dam broke loose.
And Marguerite began to sob and keen.
And the twisting of it stole her words until she could only scream.
Her head tilted back to the frigid, phalangeal grasping of a granite tree for an ashen sky,
Screaming and screaming and screaming
Into a sky that would not fall.
Aren’t we all.
Posted on 06/11/2011
Copyright © 2023 Shawnacy Perez