Poem: If Nostalgia Were Religion

If Nostalgia were religion


Deirdre Maultsaid

Originally published in Contemporary Verse 2: 33(3), 2011

//I would return to that time,
to see my mother, a giddy señora,
holding aloft a baked globe of rare black clay,
standing among bowls all tilted to her kind of heaven,
my brother and sister duned up, wan and thirsty, under the cactus,
my mother’s own black hair, dusty,
her hands honouring a craft
as she always honoured and adorned it.

My mother pointing to a yellow bird in a cage
trilled “high up in banana tree”
so the song was a skirl in my mind.

Oh, so this is joy—
its silly lady heart,
its canary beauty,
its serendipity.

What about that steep street–
the mist and green hills beyond,
the mine, the vein, the lifting, the promise
the rings and bangles a banquet
and a medallion which held the world entire
in its melody and filigree?

Then, I did not think of the mine
as a place
and its people,
of the watchful eyes between two black planks of hair,
a mule passing.

Now I am relieved by beauty and remember
how they adorn my likeness
how they wait for me.

Pray to me
for the innocence of faith,
decorated only in my light.

I would go back to skittering along the beige sand
beside skipping kid legs
under the banners of jacarandas,
breathing a lip-searing wind
from the Atlas Mountains.

I did not think then
of the desert as a place,
and its people
the sky a promise

Under the jacaranda
in the heat,
I remembered the mist, the hillside,
then my mother’s joy
still a silver song
cooling my left heart,
singing in my right.

I can minister thus with—
its immanence,
its polish—
my mother’s crafts coming my way
a pot of pansies, her piano, her glissando.

On a dimming spring Sunday
with the skipping legs
now a man’s
over the couch arm,
I am at a polished table
the medallion 30 years against my heart.

My soul is filigreed with memory
with overblown purple trees
love claimed, birds singing.

Holy is here
where I am
where they wait,
people and places,
where every tassel is stunning silver
every bird is yellow.
I only have to say it:
let in my divine light;
oh, so this is joy.

Jacaranda tree

Photo by Hedwig Storch

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