Scattering the Locks
She’s humming on the porch swing:
Some glad morning when this life is o’er, I’ll Fly Away
Her hair hangs like a long dark mystery
waist length, the color of coal.
She keeps it twisted,
pinned in a bun
to the back of her head.
Too hot when hanging down,
I ask her, why not cut it?
Your daddy likes it long, she says.
So my mother lives with this length
for a long time.
She keeps humming:
Just a few more weary days and then, I’ll Fly Away
One steamy summer afternoon
she sits fanning, sweating,
asks me to fetch scissors.
I slice thick locks of
cast iron color, and
they fall as crow feathers on wind.
She thinks it odd that I gather them and
carry the locks west
to sleep in cities, Seattle, San Francisco.
Southern locks lie sleeping
in my cold North drawer,
waiting and knowing
what I could not have known:
How much I would need her locks
once she was gone.
When the shadows of this life have grown, I’ll Fly Away
She slips into lilac scented spring dawn
before I can reach her
I must cross
The Continental Divide
Dark hollows, Great Stone Face
and Elk Knob.
I call but no one answers the phone:
Like a bird from prisons bars has flown, I’ll Fly Away
She flies and I feel her coming to me
carried on wings of wonder.
She arrives and I open the drawer,
lift the locks, ready myself for release.
I’ll Fly Away, Oh Glory, I’ll Fly Away
When I die, hallelujah by and by, I’ll Fly Away
I don’t view the body
I don’t attend the funeral
I don’t receive the ashes,
I scatter the locks.
First in the park where I last heard her voice,
for nesting robins and chickadees
and in the cemetery near my home.
To a land where joys shall never end, I’ll Fly Away
Next in water:
Lake Washington, Puget Sound
Pacific Ocean, and my backyard.
She never traveled far from the family farm,
or wished to fly on an airplane, preferred train.
But we never boarded together.
She never came west,
only in her dreams.
To a home on God’s Celestial Shore, I’ll Fly Away
Now her locks lie scattered around the world:
Maui Black Rock, Hong Kong and Dark Continent.
I carry her always with me,
in locks of hair, DNA,
my own mystery.
* * *
In late summer light we hike
high above the tree line
in land of long, slow vowels and blue ridges,
past cow pies and horse flies.
Then we see them:
vultures roosting on limestone boulders-
timeless as we are.
Their forefathers and ours
once hunted bison in the valley below.
The bison are gone now,
mountain tops removed and
the old homestead an abandoned coalmine.
We peer down with the winged witnesses,
all of us surviving on leftovers.
* * *
Marianne Mersereau is a dancer, poet and mystic who enjoys gardening and traveling. Her fondness for flowers, bees and the natural world has earned her the nickname Wild Honey. She is the author of two books, the recipient of several poetry awards, and has writing forthcoming in Bella Grace Magazine and Public Poetry Houston’s anthology “Enough.”
featured photo by Jean Kercheval, website: www.kerchevalphotography.com