I first noticed the presence of her in Amsterdam…a rather plain, overweight woman, struggling up the small, steep staircases of the Hotel Rokin near Dam Centraal.  She, with friendly eyes and a certain warmth in her smile, wrestled an oversized suitcase up the winding staircase and stopped at each landing, trying to catch her breath.  Wire-rimmed glasses framed her reddening face, a world-weariness and nervousness laid over her shoulders like a cumbersome shawl; her thinning hair fell beneath her shoulders, an unshapely crown of unnatural red curls.  It was her strange sense of familiarity that drew me in and from then on, I felt an odd pull and a strange importance and necessity of watching for her..

 I didn’t intentionally search her out later in the days of the Queen’s birthday celebration that followed, yet I always seemed to run into her:  in the streets in front of the Anne Frank Museum, or gazing in a shopkeeper’s windows filled with red shoes, or peering through dirty windows which housed breathtaking paintings in neighborhoods near the university. 
 I followed her through the streets one evening to the three princes cafe and watched as she ate a fresh Thai dinner.  I saw her at the top of the Rilke museum stairways and later, at the end of a blustery day, I watched her tentatively attempt to manuever the steps of a canal boat near the van Gogh museum.
In Paris, I followed her to a small cafe off the Champs de Elysses and watched as she wiped tears from her eyes after  two cruel shopgirls shooed her rudely away from their store.  I saw her shrink to eight years old again, as they curtly told her in their broken English that they did not carry ‘her size’ .  Her discomfort in her skin already made me squirm;  the sadness was palpable and my eyes could not look away.  I felt sorry for her in that moment and I was certain that this was a woman who  was again re-assessing the cruel landscape of both physicality and aging, and that these two unyielding sisters had  betrayed  her in these later years.  And, judging by the disbelieving moments of shock that appeared on occasion around her eyes, these  visitors had taken her by surprise when she wasn’t looking or paying close attention.   How could you have missed this, I wondered to her, almost aloud…
This unremarkable older American woman with sagging breasts and too-ample hips clearly was not used to maneuvering such girth around in these unfamiliar districts of Paris.  But you could see what it meant with every step and how she tried with every fiber of her being to walk, see and feel each moment. In the light of an early morning,  I followed her from the lobby of her small hotel through the sunrise streets as she made her way to the Left Bank.  Her eyes darted across the boulevard, following the lines and architectural masterpieces around her–sights, smells, even the sounds of a heated argument in foreign tongue between two elderly gentlemen walking arm and arm with canes in hand, along the banks of an early morning’s Siene.  Clearly, each moment, each step she took as she walked he streets of this city of lights, became a new and miraculous sustenance for her aching soul. 
Late in the following day, I peered at her from inside a tiny, corner cafe, watching as she struggled up the streets of Montmartre to watch the sunset from the steps of Sacre Coeur.  She paused to study the work of a young artist through a cafe window, as he slathered paint on a giant canvas filled with graffiti.  She hid her occasional breathlessness with short stops in front of the side-street galleries, a produce mart, a small Dali museum and a baker’s window.  And, as she battled with lungs most-likely damaged from years of tobacco’s wrath,  I felt the pressure in my chest, too, yet remained amazed at her tenacity, wondrous that such a woman would still try to do and see all that was important on such a journey– without complaining or whining as I surely would have.  I  felt her joy as she marveled at her surroundings.  It radiated off of her, that joy did…  and in that moment, I knew somehow that  the strength of this simple joy was the impetus behind her determination to avoid being beaten down by the daily reminders of her vanished youth.  Old age crashed into her,  tripped her up on uneven pavement,  and fell like bone-chilling rain, cold tears on her eyelids and cheeks.  
On MacMahon Avenue, I stood behind her in a crowded Parisian farmaci and listened as she pantomimed her need to a kindly female pharmacist. It was a vein, she explained, a huge vein that had swollen her leg almost twice its size, making walking both painful and impossible.  The female pharmacist was kind and as she knelt to measure a swollen ankle for the correct size of support hose, I watched the crone’s features shift ever so slightly as her gaze caught me in the act of near stalker and watcher of her over the days.  I caught the moment’s exchange in my psyche, and like a small smooth stone,  I tucked it deep inside the pockets of me for safe keeping–and with a great sense of relief…
Slightly limping toward the pharmacy doorway, she headed toward me and as she passed, an unseen hand grasped mine in final acceptance and understanding.  Together we crossed the sidewalk, stepped cautiously down a broken curb and held each other up as we headed up the steep hill back to our hotel.  I will accept you now, I whispered.  I will hold your arm and steady you on this City’s ancient stairs.  I will show you to a vacant seat on the bullet train racing toward Brussels and I will sing to you after an early supper.  I will let a younger traveling companion lift your heavy bag for you without protest, and I will let you succumb to rest without guilt when weariness wins out, even as an exuberant nighttime Paris is coming alive in its cacophony of sound and light. 
And, I will remind you of this: there is no need to pine away for a-long past youth; no need to discount the years of a life that should be honored and cherished for its worth and its beauty.  Yes, yes, that is over and behind you, never lost nor forgotten.   Lay down with me in peaceful resignation now as I welcome who you are today and who you’ve become.  Extend this olive branch and truce with youth and welcome the next brief phase of what’s next before our curtain falls and our house darkens.
I will accept you now, old crone.
Its time.

About lindalou5150

as exercise or exorcism, i write...for the eyes of others, for my eyes and heart only, for the love and the rage, i release the gamut of tell the truth and say what's often thought but not written...
This entry was posted in beat poetry, venice meat poets, poetry/poesy, prose-ish poetry, sonoma county poets, street theater. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to crone

  1. This little story has big messages. When I first read it, I was so viscerally moved, I couldn’t respond. I became you. I felt what you were feeling. The feelings were too strong, too depleting. Yet at the end you achieved synthesis with your SELF. To be completely comfortable in one’s own skin is worth all the pain others cause. I am in your skin, your mind, your heart, and I would even wear your red heels. Though I felt like taking one of them off and bashing a few people… but unlike me, you took the abuse without retaliation, a woman of peace, a beautiful woman who I cherish very much.

  2. MandT says:

    As she entered their establishment
    In the First Arrondissement
    And found herself pecked
    By scolding sparrows
    She, no doubt flew
    Into the narrows
    Of a Spring’s plain light
    Flooding the jardin des Tuileries
    Where, you see—
    Crone sight
    Burned brighter than any City of lights
    And her nights in the city of love
    Made her fashionable, always
    On the Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honore
    For she,
    Wore the most beautiful red heels,
    They ever did see!

    xxxxxxoooo stone in the Seine

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