Every Blade of Grass
How many angels could fit on the head of a pin?
“Perhaps the answer is simply one: / one female angel dancing alone in her stocking feet, / a small jazz combo working in the background. / She sways like a branch in the wind, her beautiful / eyes closed, and the tall thin bassist leans over / to glance at his watch because she has been dancing / forever, and now it is very late, even for musicians.” —Billy Collins
Mom first started seeing angels in her early twenties, when an African man in traditional clothes appeared to her, sitting at the end of her bed. She says he has visited often since then, and that she gets the sense he is just a person without much more of a clue than she has.
But she could see other things before that, and she always knew things. Before she was five years old, she could see auras and didn’t understand that not everyone was seeing them. People glowed with light energy in every color like light through stained glass.
I see the pale bellies of sharks in pools and tornadoes with girls’ heads, but I do not see angels. The word angel derives from the Greek word “angelos” meaning “messenger.” In Christian mythology, there are angels who fall from grace called fallen angels, and they tell lies. The fallen angels all have specific names and identities like Halpas, who appears as a stork or Marchosias —a she-wolf with griffin wings.
The stork peeks around my curtain.
This is a kind of aloneness, the kind that tastes like pulled teeth and steam coming off dragon scales and humid cat fur in the dark. My rosehips float in vinegar, alone.
In Christian theology, angels have no gender, though they are described as having masculine features and are referred to with the masculine pronoun. Female angels, then, must have come from outside Christianity, probably from pagan ideas of female goddesses who behave as angels. We see female representations of angels everywhere: in art, standing over graves, on ugly blue wrapping paper, kneeling over graves, on cheesy greeting cards, folded over graves. I have never seen a male angel condemned in stone to weep for all eternity.
Brigid is the Celtic goddess of the three fires: the fire of inspiration, of the hearth, and of the forge. She is the goddess of poetry, of healing, and of motherhood. She is also associated with the celebration of the coming of spring after the endless, harsh winters in Ireland. And, according to Celtic thought, all of the fires are the same—the life of the home cannot be disconnected from intellectual life or protection or war.
Tlazolteotl is the Aztec goddess of filth, childbirth, weaving, and earthly cycles. In most traditions there is a sexually empowered woman used, maybe, to dissuade promiscuity or female power. These figures have always called to me in my polarized sphere. They are full of the promise of blood and connectedness. They promise me motherhood and protection and liberation. They promise me liberation from isolation.
While babies with little tiny ovaries develop in the womb, they create about 7 million eggs, so when they’re born, they already have all the eggs of their future children and all the eggs they will lose. We stretch in a chain of potential and possibility, one inside the other like nesting dolls. Mom has always had a particular affinity for healing and especially for babies. She can tell the gender of a baby before it is born. She says she was confused when she was pregnant with us because she kept getting mixed signals—girl, boy, girl, without knowing there were two. She had a reading before we were born, and the psychic said her children were both powerful and important.
It was flu season in kindergarten, and everyone got a shot from the nurse. I waited in line clutching a floppy teddy bear that was once my babysitter’s (she could have been the angel of spicy pickles and Little Debbie Swiss Rolls). Eventually it was my turn in line, and the nurse gave me the shot, and blood ran down my arm. The nurse was surprised, and so was I, and she said I must just be a bleeder. I was so pleased with her words and carried them around with me. It was as if I was spilling over, like there was just too much of me to hold.
“The family of words that are related to the English word “menstruation” include mental, memory, meditation, mensurate, commensurate, meter, mother…”
The Mother, the Daughter, and the Holy of Holies.
“…mana, magnetic, mead, mania, man, and moon”
The moon rolls on its neck to see spring. I hope for dawn and newness.
Mom grew up in a house full of classical music and math and quiet. Her mother was a professor of criminal justice and her father a professor of math. There was no room for things beyond reason and fact, no room for her dreams of other worlds or the colors.
I am looking for me everywhere, but sometimes she escapes my grasp. Sometimes she runs amuck in strawberry fields and gets all red from rubbing berries on her face, and I am at a loss for what to do with her.
Mom sometimes hallucinates the sound of a bird call right before she falls asleep.
Sometimes I shrink and swim in the sea of my clothes. Sometimes I wish there were more places to hide when what I see is only open water.
Blood islands are structures that surround the embryo that develop into the circulatory system.
They are the beginning of our heart tubes, our primitive love.
Islands can be made by men, by volcanoes, by the splitting of continents, or by the build-up of coral. No matter what, they are a sanctuary to something, even if just to a plot of grass. And if each blade of grass has an angel, as the Talmud says, then an island is surely home to many thousands of angels.
MARIN HART is a sophomore at the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Houston, Texas. She has been recognized by the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards for her poetry and fiction and has been published by Teen Ink.