Thursday, March 22, 2007

Lady Amalthea

Of Heroes

I have never much admired heroes and celebrities or public martyrs
Whose deeds are properly applauded and whose vanity is warmed even behind bars.
Nor have I been taken with chastity and celibacy and varied and sundry virginities.
my heart is moved by the middle-aged lady who walks her cat
or curbs her dog in the early evening
And goes home alone to a little apartment
where virginity is a cold fact
And not a jewel in anyone's crown,
Where martyrdom is not measured by white robes or assassination,
But by a single place setting and a lonely two-week vacation.

~James Kavanaugh


Regal and dignified, her badly-cut dyed brown hair framing her face, she turns to me. Her eyes are shadowed; she is so unutterably weary, living a life that is so entirely at odds with the utter good that has been her existence. I look into her eyes and remember another woman, another day, a lady with gorgeous brown curls tumbling down her back, her eyes shining, clothed in a radiant blue, tall, triumphant and exquisite- a queen.

Her words are dipped in grace, her every expression tinkling with the hint of the exotic accent that remains to her. She is bowed and cast down; she stares at the black pavement and her sensible ugly shoes. Gone are the flattering clothes, the colorful silks, her father's wealth, her family's station. All that remains to her are memories, and bitter ones, for they are of times that were better than these.

She is the only one to have obeyed the precepts and the commandments, the only one to care for her aging mother. She lives with her, seeing to her every need, however time-consuming or undignified. She is patient, she is kind, she is dead, a woman who has sacrificed herself for the woman who bore her. Technology seems strange to her; all she has is the television, her only outlet, her only form of connection to the world, the only form of self-expression that remains to her. Her television and her walkman, these are her comforts, allowing her the vestiges of the culture and elegance she so loves, she who has a PhD in Russian Literature, she who once taught in the schools of the elite.

    If thou beest he; But O how fall'n! how chang'd
    From him, who in the happy Realms of Light
    Cloth'd with transcendent brightnes
    didst outshine Myriads though bright...
So a Satan could exclaim, but more properly a God. For her sake could I believe in a next world did I not, if only so that she might merit palaces beyond those the angels have seen. This is the woman- this woman who put her hands upon the street so that her mother, her sandal having fallen off, could walk-in her the merit of Esau exists, if it is not doubled, or trebled. For Esau had his wives, his prosperity and his blessing, but she has none- so look God, and judge!

She must have her sadnesses and sorrows, but is resigned to them. She is weary but she does not bear a grudge towards her mother; she treats her with a kindness and gentleness that shatters me. There are no accusations, frantic screams of a spoiled child yearning for freedom, no ingratitude or cruelty, only tea within the Chinese teacup, white rice placed quietly upon a plate.

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