My mother tells me of my father’s grandmother. How Bertha recounted her trip to America. Reliving the voyage as an old woman. Describing the effects of the rolling sea. Of the nausea she experienced as a young woman, heavy with her first child, no more than a child herself, at seventeen. At the time, my mother thought it odd, funny even, that Der Ma could have recalled an incident that had occurred more than half a century earlier as if she were speaking of a journey made only yesterday.
old wives’ tales
we exchange our stories
with the wind
“Perhaps,” my mother says suddenly, “you come by your gifts naturally.” She is speaking now of language, not of memory. “Der Ma was a linguist,” she adds with a flourish. It is an old, high compliment, passed down through the generations of my family.
But I am not a linguist, I want to say. Not like Der Ma. I know a little French, a little Spanish, a little unutterable German, but I don’t deserve such a title. To be known by such a title . . . What must that be?
on the tip of my tongue . . .
her six-pointed star