Friday, May 21, 2010

The Museum at the Greek Agora /Athens

There is a baby’s skull in an earthen jar and a little girl laid out flat in a tomb of rock.  After so many centuries the girl’s bones and the stones that hold her are bride and bridegroom, melded into one.  Who delivered her there with her bracelets and rings, her child-sized painted dishes and pitchers?  Who slipped the baby into the narrow mouth of the jar and guided it into the full-bellied chamber, a backwards birth into the nether world? Who bore these losses?

After so many centuries, loss still inhabits the room.  In this museum at the Greek Agora in Athens, a woman speaks in a voice too loud for the narrow space.  “It looks like a real person,” the woman says. She is staring at the little girl’s bones.  Is this how we protect ourselves from grief? Imagine the real into the unreal?

Does my husband imagine our daughters as beings who have crossed over into some other world?  Their living flesh and bone—do they only exist for him in a life he’s sealed himself away from?  Or does he startle himself in the night when he walks into M.’s room to lift a fussing baby boy from his crib?  Does he expect her blond ponytail on the pillow for a fleeting instant before he caresses his son’s dark curls? Does the silence from C.’s room frighten him? No pages turning, no pen scratching across paper as the dark house slips past midnight? Does he ever pace the halls as his new wife sleeps and think of the house when it was ours and visit the memories of our life together there entombed?

I stand in a room across an ocean in my new life starring at the bones of children.  The jar, the stone encased in glass pull me backwards. “It is a little girl,” I want to say to the woman.  “See the bracelet that circled the softest skin? See her ring? She was real flesh and blood once. These are her bones, and they are real, too.

1 comment:

Elizabeth said...

These words are so beautiful, Denise. I've been crying off and on all day, anyway, so here are some more tears.