Cemetary © Ricardo Santeugini
Cemetary © Ricardo Santeugini

© 2009 Sandra Jean-Pierre

There is a language that dead people speak.

It sounds like Portuguese, Swahili, Farsi, mixed sometimes with Hebrew, French and Czech. If I listen closely I can detect a bit of Spanish, blended in with Tagalog and Hopi. I can only imagine it sounds like what God would hear in the chorus of prayers and wails that rise to the bottom of the clouds, then burst through heaven like a tree through the air. This dirge of voices all clamoring personally for God’s ear.

This is what I hear when I dream of my Mother.

When her mouth opens to form the warnings that she must give me, her lips part to form words I doubt I will ever learn in school. Her tongue lifts and lilts in ways my own tongue, filled with Her ancient Haitian memories, won’t ever be able to do. This language that she speaks in these dreams, is always hurried, like she needs to get it all out NOW. And she does, in a flurry so deep and profound, it leaves me in studious concentration, long after she has left me or after she has stopped speaking. My mind usually tries to go through Its memories, searching amongst all that I know, all that I am, all that I will ever be, in order to find a translation for what my Mother is speaking. Always though, I am left inspired and empty because I can never seem to find anything in me that knows how to translate what it is she is saying.

In one of those dreams that I dreamt of Her, She was swathed in white, feet bare, head covered – in a hurry. Keeping step with whom I can only assume was God, though my eyes could not be sure. I had heard the barrage of language preceding her arrival and I poised myself, ready this time to catch her words and possibly their meaning, as she prepared to rush past me. Instead I got knocked down to the floor by her coming presence. This motionless wind of light and life, moving everywhere and no where about me.

She stopped, stooped to me, grabbed my upper arms, looked me in my eyes and in an English as clear as a cup of cool water she spoke:

“You must listen to this – it is important.”

She spoke a few words in her language, I nodding my head in comprehension and I heard. I heard the notes of music yet to be written, the breathe of babies yet to be born. I heard the roar of peoples in sedition, the ocean being angry, the sky clapping in delight, the sun sighing. I heard the prayers of Hope, a birds heartbeat, the rustle of the twinkling stars. I heard Faith’s unending ministrations and what I can only guess to be the laughter of God. It brought me joy, to hear Her new language and finally understand the meaning of Existence, of Death, of After.

With eyes and ears opened, I dusted myself off and followed her, as much and as fast as I could but it was no use. She was ahead and beyond my reach or scope. With my mind unable to store all She had given me, the only thing She left me with were carrots. This bowl she had been carrying with her was filled with the most orange, succulent carrots I have seen in this life. And as noisily as she had approached, she disappeared, along with my hope and understanding.

In these dreams, I always seem to be chasing my Mother or looking out for her coming, always missing her by seconds. My Aunt told me never to follow her, for meeting her would only take me away from this life. But my mind had intentions of its own – it just knew that We missed her. And like a disobedient child, We went chasing after that which We would never touch or hold again.

People ask me if I can feel her near. My answer is always No. Where She is, my umbilical cord can no longer reach her, can no longer connect to her mothering fount. This is the reason why I cry so much and so often from her absence. This is why I try and chase her in my dreams – she has gone to a place where we, are no longer connected, where I, can no longer be her shadow, where she, can no longer mother me. And I have no business there – this, I am smart enough to respect and know.

Her only concession has been this language that she speaks, that she allowed my mind to know once. And I can only hope, that she will be patient while I am down here, figuring it out.