I will never forget the first time I read Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon and its startling portrait of the character Pilate. When Milkman first meets her she is standing very still, dressed in black and cradling a round, luminous orange in her palm.
That image never left me, suffused as it was, with archetypes of The Crone, The Magician, The Shadow. Morrison knew how to make heart-stopping use of instinctual images. Plumbing deeper, I think the portrait of Pilate personified the Earth Mother, her darkness and her light, her life-giving power and her predation.
Now that the crocuses are appearing open-mouthed and the daffodils are having their first peek into the thawing world, this image returns; the world that blooms but also reaps. I find myself writing about love and the majesty of the natural world, but characters like crows and vultures keep entering and I welcome them. They are the counter-balance to sentimentality and rose-colored memories of youth, bearing the detritus necessary to a full experience of life.
Interlude at Twin Creek
They’d line the parking lot wires
near the snack van
sophomore year, the crows and their uncanny
recall of human faces. They knew
who to approach for a bite
of honey bun fried in butter
and who to avoid. Afternoons, they’d still
be there, gazing in dry intelligence
as the boy and I escaped
into burnished woods, cut along
the creek, the sweet atrophied scent
of wood smoke that led
to Finney’s barn. It was there that his name,
slender as a bird’s tongue,
lost itself in straw and dust, motes
swirled above sacks of feed,
light cracked down on the thinnest
of memories through its rafters;
an eye, a hand, a flannel draped
shoulder. And the finger that drew slowly
across my lips: Quiet, it said, quiet.
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