…if my mothers were alive…



if my mothers were alive,

i wouldn’t have to search for the bones.

i would sit, my grandmother’s skull on my desk,

gossiping me the secrets of her world.


if my mothers were alive,

i wouldn’t have to lay the bones out, so in death as in life.

i would wear a necklace of her knuckle bones,

and howl in my back garden, on a moonlit night.


if my mothers were alive,

i wouldn’t have to sing them whole.

their voices would sit at the back of my throat,

a growl, a gasp, a song for every work task,

a lick of my lips.


i am doing a course on art journaling, i thought, if i don’t do it, i will not fill my pages with drawings… i love the written word, but sometimes it sticks you to the page… sometimes only am image will do to unfurl a flag… to lever up those ideas from the unconscious…

so i signed up for the Get Messy (https://getmessyartjournal.com/) season on fairy tales… i haven’t felt the flow of writing on this for a while now, work gets in the way (time and energy wise), i get easily distracted by social media… i found out about Get Messy through the blog “Follow the Brush:explorations in creativity” – https://divyamchayabernstein.wordpress.com/ … it has not disappointed so far… i have not disappointed myself… i have a thousand unfinished, sometimes unstarted, ideas of art projects i want to do – this makes me get shit done – and for that i am immensely scared and immensely thankful…

i spent the first week feeling overwhelmed and undertalented… the thousand ideas and then not one that sticks. flapping around my head but never landing.

then i read an excellent article by amber sparks on “the useful dangers of fairy tales” (http://lithub.com/the-useful-dangers-of-fairy-tales/), on the absence of living mothers in fairy tales, she wrote this:

“Someday, my daughter will ask me why there are no mothers in these fairy tales, and I will tell her that the world was a dangerous place for women back then.

Back then, I will say, and I will load that phrase with as much meaning as I can. I will not add, “and now.” I’ll let her come to that conclusion just as I did, just as the fairy tale readers before me and before me and before me did, all the way back to the beginnings of the tales themselves. She won’t be scared, I hope—and she’ll be empowered as hell, I hope—but also, grimly ready to go into the world and do battle with all she finds there. Kings and queens and witches and magic mirrors and stepmothers and passive fathers and disguises and huntsman and, yes—beautiful, dangerous wolves.”

and i thought about how all those mothers die or are already dead… about how the step-mothers don’t get it, or are distant, or actively cruel – those damaged women who inhabit the spaces where our mothers should be, those imposters, those sheep in wolves clothing… where did all that nourishment of women for the ones who are to follow them go? why do we judge each other so much? what is the nature of that “wound” that gets passed down if you don’t choose not to… and that is so very hard, how not to pass on the damage done to you down the line… if the mothering was alive and not squished into too small shoes, or doing a stupid father-king’s bidding when he decides he just as to marry you, his own daughter, or avoiding the wolves who look like our grandmothers, or the ones who don’t – the ones who sing to the birds…

but I was not yet settled, so, i painted wardrobe doors and listened to clarissa pinkola estes talk about those lupine women (http://www.clarissapinkolaestes.com/bio.htm) …

3 phrases came to me, in this order:

  1. put my bones in order
  2. if my mothers were still alive
  3. i sing me whole

i thought, yes! finally something comes, something i can work with… and so i did…

and finally she crept in, and she wouldn’t leave… vasilisa, sometimes the wise, sometimes the beautiful… always interesting… hence the russian doll in the picture.and the crow… a postcard from Perrin Sparks (http://www.perrinsparks.com/etchings.htm#) because, crows… you can do nothing without them.. and the cut outs, i did until the picture felt ready…