Pentimento (pen' ti men to) n. ~ an underlying image in a painting, as an earlier painting, part of a painting or original draft, that shows through, usually when the top layer of paint has become transparent with age.
The second issue of Pentimento Magazine, a publication of literary works written by and for the community of individuals living with disabilities, has arrived.
I am so blessed to be a part of this magazine. So grateful that the Editor-In-Chief and founder of this magazine asked me to help (though I help very little, in all honesty!)
There I am listed as Contributing Editor, Creative Non-Fiction...
As Contributing Editor, I did indeed contribute to this issue. I feel humbled to be nestled on these pages with such authentic and moving voices. My words lie along side of poets Elizabeth Dolan and Marie Kane, New York photographer Flo Fox, and 10-year old cover artist Hassan Boyouk.
Reading this beautiful magazine cover-to-cover is like listening to an aria and finding that you are crying at the end. And, it's okay that you are.
Here is my essay as it first appeared in Pentimento.
The World Lies Forward
The world lies forward, but I weave backward.
An infant turning blue in my arms. A violent seizure rattling through her skull, trying to wrestle her life away. I fight hard, but it fights dirty. I fight hard, my breath thrust down her throat, my prayers offered to a God I have long ignored. He giveth and He taketh away. That day He both gave and took. She was still my daughter, but she was never the same after that. Neither was I.
The world lies forward, but I weave backward.
A polished coffee table, a diagnosis, a report on crisp white paper faintly smelling of fresh Xerox ink. Speech bubbles floating like dandelion clocks filled with words I cannot bear. “She will never live a normal life,” I am told. I should be angry. I should cling to hope, let it intoxicate me; levitate me out of the room. But I know truth when it is spoken.
Though the world lies forward, my feet are too leaden with regret, too troubled with angst to propel me toward it. “Ahead” is not full of promise, only more of the same.
The surface shows everything, but also hides everything. It also means nothing. So, I pretend to be that warrior, that Mom. I join support groups, find specialists, try therapies, cluck platitudes. Underneath it all, I’m really nothing. I’m moving parts, I’m cogs and wheels and conjured hope and underwhelming faith.
Weaving backwards. Untangling, unraveling.
When I dream, it is of her. She always masquerades as something else—a frozen chrysalis, a dead black butterfly, a stoic nun, a china doll at the bottom of the swimming pool, an unfamiliar girl in a blue and white dress pointing to an airplane in the cobalt sky, brazen in her normality. Suddenly, they all shape-shift, become my daughter — clear-eyed, flaxen-haired, mute. I awaken with a sob lodged like a burr in my throat. Swelling, stuck, pulsing with the need to escape until I squeeze it into a stone. Swallow it whole.
And so it goes—the transmutation of grief. Its unforgiving weight on a friable form. Its indiscretion, its erratic orbit seducing you to spend forever weaving backwards to find the moment, the blame, the cure. So you search until your knuckles cramp and your back bows. Until an entire past lies in heaps of yarn at your heels— a disemboweled rainbow. I find no answers sorting through the tangled threads, just like the doctors have no answers and the tests have no answers and the heavens have no answers.
And so it goes on the carousel of years until the “what ifs” fall to the ground, inconsequential as dust. Until the answers don’t matter. Until forgiveness is surrendered. Until the nightmares fade.
Until you wake up.
Because the world lies forward and in this forward lying world there is angst and abundance, redemption and regret, fiction, truths, and great unknowns. In this forward lying world hope matters less, faith matters more. Peace blooms only where the sun rises not where it sets. Peace comes when you set it all down. Live in wholes not in pieces. Leave the knot and the burr, leave the blame.
And so it goes, the transmutation of grief—a chrysalis yielding to the monarch, a china doll recovered from the deep, a grieving soul saved with mercy. A little girl in a blue and white dress under a dome of cobalt sky, beautiful and mute. Waving me home.
Because the world lies forward and upward and beyond and it never made any promises or offered any apologies.
And there, in the tumbling expanse of this forward lying world, I see my daughter waiting—silent, clear-eyed, arms outstretched. Wondering what took me so long to arrive.