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Write on Edge link-up

March 24, 2012

I committed to linking up a post to Write On Edge this week, and — by God — I want to keep that commitment.  There’s nothing like waiting until the last bloody minute to post, huh (well, technically, I still have about thirty of them, but who’s counting)?  As a refresher, the prompt for today’s link up was this:

Hope comes in a jar. It floats. We wrote about hope in our memoirs this week, now let’s take it in a different direction. According to Dante, the gates of hell are inscribed “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.”

Let that inscription lead, but not necessarily define, your piece for Friday’s link-up.

500 words or less.

*****

Bright morning stars are rising
Bright morning stars are rising
Bright morning stars are rising
Day is a-breaking in my soul…

You probably don’t know this, but I always thought I would name you Hailey.  Hailey.  The way the syllables roll between the tongue and the teeth, the long “A” sound, it just feels like sunshine.  A little girl named Hailey, I always thought, would have shiny hair and shoulders full of freckles.  A girl named Hailey would catch lightning bugs and make snow cream and fix her hands to her hips when lit up with righteous indignation.  Your father, for what it’s worth, loved the name, too.  He insisted on your middle name — Camila — after his mother, long dead from a car accident but pedestaled smartly in his child’s memory.

Oh where are our dear fathers?
Oh where are our dear fathers?
They’re down in the valley a-praying
Day is a-breaking in my soul

You probably don’t know that you were two days from being born when your father disappeared.  Disappeared, as in left-his-work-boots-on-the-back-porch-and-never-came-for-them vanished.  Vaporized, first a cloud of cigarette smoke and an easy smile and then… nothing.  He went to work at the same restaurant where he’d clocked in, sober and shining like a sink, every day for the past five years.  He never came home.  I panicked at first, of course.  I worried that he’d met a knife in the alley or a storm in the street, and then I remembered:  I’d resigned myself, long before the day he disappeared, to a life of suffering in exchange for you.  I wanted you more than I deserved to hope.  I gave up your father because I wanted you more, and I need you to know that.

Oh, where are our dear mothers?
Oh, where are our dear mothers?
They’ve gone to heaven a-shouting
Day is a-breaking in my soul*

The day you were born, I was alone in my skin.  My mother never liked me much and my father, as you know, died of cancer too young.  You slipped into the world like you owned it, a fire in your eyes and skin too dark for a Hailey.  The name was too small for a spirit that burned just so bright — from the first breath you took.  When the nurse asked me, alone on my hospital bed, no husband, no mother, no one, what your name was, I panicked.  My brain was feathered from exhaustion, my muscles tense and twitching.  I thought of a hymn my father used to sing to me — not sure how it clawed through the swarm of my brain, but figure it climbed out for a reason — and I smiled up at the nurse.  “Bright.”  I said.  “That’s her name.”

*****

As you read this, I’ll be wishing you a weekend of bright stars and soft landings.  Thanks, as always, for showing up.

* these are lyrics from the traditional Appalachian folk song/hymn Bright Morning Stars.  I’ve included a video of the transcendental Canadian trio, The Wailin’ Jennys, singing it for your enjoyment. 

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