a whisper, from 103 year-old me

by erika



I’m trying to tell you something…”

(I lean into the air like she’s there)

“Everything you don’t know doesn’t matter.

And everything that matters you can’t know.

Not with your mindbrain anyway.”

(I can’t tell if her paradoxical whimsy is a  symptom of her age, 103 last weekend, or her wisdom)

“I was once like you. exactly like you in fact. So like you, I was you. And so, even with all that I have forgotten, I remember…”

(Her bent finger taps her exposed, freckled, sternum.)

“That ache in your chest is not lack

or longing

it’s the work of unknowing…

unknowing what they told you

unknowing what you believed

unknowing what you thought you needed

and how you thought you should act

and look like

and fear.

Unknowing is not ignorance

it is a deepening, a coming closer to a whole.”

(I can only start to begin to see myself in her slightly clouded blue eyes.)

“Unknowing, as a verb, is resistance training. It is the way to knowing yourself as you truly are–before, as St. Janis Ian says, “the world has done its dirty job.”

(She closer her eyes and loses herself in a memory of the rest of that song for a moment…I think she is asleep but she is humming the chorus. I wait patiently until her eyes blink open.)

“Oh kitten, I love the parts of you that you hide, the naughty bits that make you spit and snarl–they are what gets us through this next thing you’re staring down…and the next thing…and the time after that. Unknow who you are so you can be free of all the bullshit.”

(I’m not entirely sure what she means, happy that she still swears for emphasis, and know for certain that there is no all-seeing, unknowing manual.)

“Where do I start?” I ask.

“Not where,” she says mischievously. “But when.”


“I’m so glad you asked,” she smiles.


(And then she drifts off again, humming a crackled melody, “Stars, they come and go, they come fast, they come slow and they go….like the last light of the sun all in a blaze…)