The Queen of Heaven

‘Look, mom, I see a red bird!’

I tell her it’s a cardinal, but she only cares about the paint it leaves in her memory. It is one masterful stroke by an artist whose hands are more important than their name.

‘I heard Meowth!’

Her brother’s cat scowls from the street, a feral refusal for our alms of petting and food. I tried to lure her back home once, but she has been tainted by freedom, and what woman can be owned twice?

My daughter watches out the front door. She is waiting for the FedEx truck to deliver her matching unicorn apron and chef’s hat. Two days ago, we made food for her brothers, a youngest sister’s offering to a history of boys who will leave home before she is old enough to have a boyfriend, to drive, to menstruate, to fight with me about piano lessons, to wake and think, where have all the voices gone, and how am I alone in a place where the altar was so full?

To a child of seven, there is no sense of time. She is not waiting; she is expecting. She expects the birds to land near the lilies we planted, the window to display the hologram of her tongue she has used to taste the sunlight. She doesn’t wait for the arriving, but lives for the happening. The rain happens, and the hydrangeas are salvaged. Tuesday happens, and the neighbor’s roof still isn’t repaired from a storm three weeks ago when an oak branch fell into her living room.

Another neighbor says he will pay $1800 to remove a tree and shows me where its brother, a phantom oak, made a hole in my yard. The previous tenants were hoarders. A man died. We bought his boyhood home, a place where his daughter-in-law’s brother would stand in 45 years, sing in baritone, play his Martin in E-minor, get tired, die of liver cancer at age 24. We were told the man’s mother had beautiful flowers, but our beds are graves for lespedeza and mallow.

The FedEx truck comes, and a man in ridiculous shorts gives my daughter a package.

‘What is it, Mother?’ She calls me ‘mother’ because I went too far with Bates Motel jokes.

‘Maybe it is my book,’ I tell her, but she knows something is happening, even if Tuesday’s brand of happiness isn’t hers. She would say, What are Black Tickets? She would say, Who are the Bone People? And I would tell her, Dark nights and darker secrets.

But the package is her apron and her hat, turquoise because before she was born, a raven told me a child will arrive in seafoam green. She distresses because the mirror isn’t tall enough to see all of her, but I tell her, The world sees all of you, but it is never your mirror.

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