Jacinda Speaks

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At fourteen, you began calling me beautiful hyacinth girl after T.S. Eliot’s The Wasteland, and when the snow finally melted and spring came you plucked petals from the olive tree in the garden and weaved them into my red hair until even my eyes were covered like gossamer, like Japanese lanterns, like the manna that fed the Israelites in the desert during their forty year exile. My fifteenth summer, I poured tears from two earthen pitchers and half the tears fell on dry ground and the other half spilled into the lake where the ripples spread like whispers in empty echo chambers. The summer lingered long and dry that year and in between swims at the lake, I daydreamed and napped in the cool under the olive tree beneath a silky, brown Ibis who sheltered in the branches and taught me the language of divining water from black stone. My sixteenth autumn, I swallowed bitter olives and conjured a husband who carried me behind the small hillock to the west of the garden and made love with me in smooth, gentle passes until we fell asleep, exhausted. At seventeen I left the lake, my belly full, and wandered out past the olive tree, past the farthest edges of my father’s garden until I spied the Sainte-Baume Mountains in the distance and followed the sun by day and the moon by night and after many days, came to the cliffs, a low range outcropping and there, found a cave overlooking an ancient oak forest and gave birth to a daughter I named Jacinda (beautiful hyacinth girl) and swaddled her in my long hair and suckled her at my breast as pilgrims searched for rest in the dark forest below. When I turned eighteen you stopping loving me, falling instead for the fourteen-year-old Empress, the one who controlled all things with her golden scepter, stellar crown, narrow hips and more demure dress. It was winter then and I left my daughter under the bare olive tree in the care of the silky, brown Ibis and hiked out into the snowy woods alone at dawn, unbuttoned my jeans, knelt, and in the center of my stomach found a dead star1 that left a smoking hole in the East.2

1. Stephen M. Miller. “Jacinda at 14.” The Last Camp in America (Midwestern Writers Publishing House, 1982). 11. “Hiking alone through the snowy woods at dawn, / she unbuttons her jeans and kneels. / The center of her stomach is a dead star.”
2. Miller. “Jacinda.” 10. “steals the orange ball from morning / leaves a hole smoking in the east.”