Maria on the Moon
I first saw her years ago in St. Sulpice, hunched over her cane and walking down a side aisle, a beldame in black armband, the craters beneath her cheeks like maria on the moon.
Tonight she appears out of nowhere, uninvited and alone, swimming up through the fissures of my brain, at first a faint speck, her straw hat slowly coming into view. Stepping through a square of thin yellow light canting from somewhere high above, she labors on her way, pausing near my pew for breath. She clutches purse and gloves in one bony hand. She is transparent, as if illuminated from within. I smell insistent French mustiness as she passes: shuffle, tap, shuffle.
She turns and walks back toward me: shuffle, tap, shuffle. For an instant she fixes me with her limpid eyes. And pointing a crooked finger toward the high altar sitting in the distance like a birthday cake with flaming candles, she mutters something indistinct, a whisper into incense. When I puzzle up at her, she shrugs skeletal shoulders and moves on, echoing into the dark: shuffle, tap, shuffle; shuffle, tap, shuffle.
I still wonder who she is and and what she seeks and where she is going. Is she moving toward the rose window? And why is she here again? Did she ever laugh and did she ever love and most of all, what were her words, this specter from the nineteenth century, this ghost of myself bequeathing lunar craters.
I stop my wondering when the organ begins to sound a faint hum of anticipated glory. It echoes back into the stillness and the dust. When it stops, I hear her walk again: shuffle, tap, shuffle; shuffle, tap, shuffle.
Photo: St. Sulpice organ, Wikipedia commons. See Wikipedia