Bio Note: February is a difficult month for us because that’s the month Mahalia died. Thank you Verse-Virtual community for supporting me, and honoring her memory. My poems have been published at Blue Heron Review, ONE ART, Verse-Virtual among others.
Photo credit: Roseanne Freed
for Mahalia. Zikhronah livrakha —May her memory be for a blessing. There isn’t a word in English or even an ancient language like Hebrew to describe a parent when her child dies. Would a word help my grief? If anyone had told me she’s in a better place, I’d have punched them. I’m not hungry. I am hungry. What am I hungry for? Kuchi sabishii— my mouth feels lonely and needs to chew. In the eighth century they wrote Requiescat in pace on gravestones, May the person who died rest in peace, Now we say R.I.P Why do we give flowers when someone dies? Are thoughts and prayers supposed to comfort us? There’s a Romanian word. Dor. Three letters. It means to long for someone you love. Like Roar. Or floor. Or Labrador. It doesn’t quench my longing— I still feel like an orphan. So sorry for your loss, she said Did she mean loss or lost? Perhaps I don’t need a word— I could tell the Bees. In Medieval Europe people believed bees were holy, were the link between humans and the spirit world, and were part of the family. When someone died, the goodwife had to go to the hive to tell the bees of the loss to prevent further tragedies. Little bees, our beautiful Mahalia is dead. Please stay with us in our distress. I can’t tell the bees—I don’t have a hive, but I can remind you that the importance of bees goes beyond superstition, that colony collapse disorder is causing the deaths of billions of bees. Should you care? Without bees, crops like oranges, almonds, avocados, and coffee would not be pollinated, would disappear. Forever. Honey too. Stop spraying your lawns with chemicals. Let the dandelions be. Bees and butterflies love them. So did Mahalia. As a herbalist she knew Dent-de-lions to be an excellent source of vitamins and minerals— and called her clinic Dandelion Naturopathic. When lawns became a symbol of wealth, dandelions on a lawn became a sign of neglect, of poverty, and we called them weeds. Even so, anyone anywhere in the world can identify the yellow lollies. Next time you blow a puffball to make a wish remember they are flowers, that welcome the bees, and the butterflies and think of Mahalia, the dandelion crusader.
Originally published in Blue Heron Review
©2023 Roseanne Freed
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