Tuesday, July 2, 2019

The Ballad of Twyla

My baby,
You are made of mountains
When I was sorting out how to extend an invitation to you
I drove south
And west and out of the cities
And into the earth. The red clay, the pine trees, the land that held
You and me. For you were in my Mom, your potential, your life, as I was in my grandmother. I contain your daughters. You contain my great-granddaughters.
I drove into the thread back, winding through blasted shale, 
Mountains opened to their vein, left bare,
Sunlight blinking through their wounds.
I downshifted iron from them,
I heated my cabin with their energy.
The landscape down there gently swells and I feel
That, I feel you, now.
I swallowed the cosmos. Your Dad sent a spark and now
You’re nesting inside me.
I feel how you’re preparing me. I feel your drawing in
And down and I didn’t know I could love a word not yet whispered.
It shows me that truly, I am so loved, I was so loved,
How could I not have been given what I feel for you now?
I love carrying you. I love holding you
In my body. I’m starting to feel who you are, little twinkle,
Little twilight. I’m starting to sense you out.

We heard your name in a song.
I was feverish and wan, struggling through undiagnosed Lyme disease. We drove
Out on a spring Wednesday night to hear a favorite band, Calexico.
The lead singer said he had twin daughters who wrote a song. One of 
Their names was "Twyla" and that night lit upon me. I heard it with Kevin’s great-
Grandmother, the Irish Catholic, "Eulalia."
Eulalia, whose mother read the Imitation of Christ each night in Richmond. Eulalia, whose round vowels were too big for her grandbabies’ mouths so she became “Wa Wa.” 
I heard Twyla Eulalia. I heard you. 
I hear your name as a song.
I heard your name as a spell you could cast when you need to remember who you are.
The mountains who made you.
The parents who prayed for you.
Your mother, who heard you.
We listened to those Calexico songs, the driving beats of the US southwest and thought of you coming towards us.
We drove south and west back to Tennessee, where my grandmother was exiled after losing her mother.
I kept feeling my great-grandmother, Maggie, feeling her tugging at my sleeve. We saw her house. We learned of her losses-- her mother Susie Griffith who passed just two years before Maggie took her own life. That exile shot my grandmother and all her siblings out of Tennessee. They lost that land, those mountains, being known in that way.
We were in the south on Maggie’s birthday. And that’s when you took root inside of me.
I’m gathering your songs. So many women conspired to pull you here-- Maggie, my grandmother Sue, Eulalia, my Mom, and so many more.
We want you here. We’re making a place.
These are your mountains.
You come from this. 
From these heroines and devils. From the sweetness and the absolute worst. 
I’m still trying to figure out what to do with that material myself. But I think it’s a reminder that we contain it all. We’ll control our monsters and let our better angels win.

And when we forget, we listen to our song to draw us back in.