Wednesday, 18 September 2019

The Calling

by Leonore Wilson

      --for Sylvia Fomina

I. He held the orphans upon orphans with HIV AIDS, the ones dying, the ones with days, minutes to live, the many the many who called him father, father. And the women he drove for hours over unpaved roads, over rocks and ruts, and he had the only small car for miles and miles, a rickety one, and the women about to give birth so young at thirteen fourteen, too young, the ones whom he drove for miles and miles and miles, singing to them, and then the silences that were a part of the singing and yes 

II. today at Mass you suddenly thought of Sylvia, lost Sylvia, lost love Sylvia at Villa Montalvo, the cottages in Saratoga an hour from the Pacific, the wild pacific, beaches of sand by artichoke fields, Villa Montalva where violet bee filled wisteria poured out water, streamed in large and small rivulets from the small wooden porches, Sylvia who escaped Russia after her mother had a nervous breakdown and so Sylvia was adopted by a family in Argentina, an Italian maestro and his wife, she and her brother, her brother a professor murdered during the coup.

III. and Sylvia walking miles miles over the Himalayas, she who couldn’t talk for two years, gripped by grief, a grief that her maestro told her...told her to go to Kenya and live with the pygmies for the pygmies do not talk but said everything in song and Sylvia healed, healed, healed and at the Villa I took her to have her teeth looked at for the very first time, she in her early thirties, and the teeth pulled out and the opiates they gave that made her droopy as the long daisies that grew around the white statues, the statues of gods and goddesses, the beautiful matilija poppies with petals white as the blouses of Catholic schoolgirls, the ones you wore, starched and ironed that made you sweat, and made you smell like old stale milk…

IV. and how you drove her your Sylvia in your little blue station wagon, as she listened to the notes in her head, as you drove down the hills full of wealthy mansions behind iron gates, oh and sometimes as you took her here and there to grocery stores bookstores she would stand mid-step in her long brown hair and white flowing dresses as you walked here, there and even around the marriages that happened in the main house, the back with the fountain of goldfish and minnows and orange koi and soft lily pads, and she listening as if there were angels speaking and there probably were, the angels of sound Mozart heard, Beethoven, Mahler, Chopin, and didn’t she love the word smoothie for she could not eat and you took her out for smoothies and how she smiled with that word in her mouth like a holy wafer, and oh Sylvia how she composed a symphony there at the Villa, the song of the women, the song of the forest, the song of the pygmies that took care of her, loved her and she came back to song, slowly came back and she wanted you to write librettos for her…

V. she who moved to Berlin and loved Philip Glass and John Cage and you thought how you could love this one of soul and spirit, and yes even matter, her new boyfriend coming from Germany and she was glad when he left for she could not hear what she needed to hear, to hear to heal, oh and yes you could almost have taken this one, this beautiful young woman in your arms in your lap like a mother to soothe her, soothe her, mother who left her flock of toddlers at home with your mother to write your long poems in the morning when the doves called and called in the beauty of the long walks, she who left you a midsize photo of her embracing her maestro in Florence, she with the long bouquets of roses in her arms like St Theresa of Avila...

VI. oh remember, when you had stayed in your room because you felt the darkness in your head that came back, the long darkness of your childhood, your marriage, the pain in your womb, your heart and you stayed in bed at dusk though you heard her little knocks and the cat mewing behind her, the one you fed bowls of milk though you were told not to, the feral cats that needed the abundance of love, the feral, the feral like lost Sylvia, the one in the hinterland now, somewhere somewhere, and you remember how you walked long mornings in the garden by the white pillars walked among the bees and the heather, and the priest came to see you, the one who said he needed someone to love like you who read poems for homilies the one who said he was leaving the priesthood saying he needed someone someone, and telling you how a man slid his hand in his pants on the long train going somewhere when he was a teen, and the hand the love he loved for his mother was so hard on him so hard, oh Montalvo where other artists lingered, the large blocky fellow from Amsterdam who you drove to Frisco and he told you he had never seen such colors of houses such colors on the outskirts of the City, and you saw as if you were a child, again, the first time, and the playwright who wrote about golfing on the moon, and the young Thai novelist who wrote about being a whore in his parents homeland and he had a father who did not love him love him and always he found himself in strange cities, towns, artist colonies looking looking for that love, that father love that he failed to find, and what about Fr Tom now whose first parish in this valley town, he was sent to live in the convent with the nuns, the other priest, the one who visited you, who returned to the church, the one who told you he could not be around “little ones,” but where else could he go go and you said nothing didn’t know what to say, he would not live with him, Fr Tom the Kenyan, he would not live in the rectory with him, sent him there and when he left to your parish, fumigated the rectory as if there was it was diseased, if as if the diseases he had seen lived in his skin, his hands that blessed the orphans, those who called him father father father……

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Leonore Wilson is on the MFA Board at St Mary's College of California. She is a former university instructor of English and creative writing. Her work has been in such magazines as Quarterly West, Laurel Review, Pif, Upstreet, Iowa Review, English Journal, etc. She lives on her family's holistic ranch in the east hills of Napa Valley.

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