Gianina Opris : Excerpts from Our Hel-en (book of prose)

Spring '07 TOC

August 16
I am told I need advice. 
I remember the young girl and what she saw.  And I think, maybe that’s who I really am.
Helen, my name is Hel-en. 
In my teenage years I never wished I had purple hair.  My mother tells me that I was born
with hardly any hair.  I have a picture where my mother is touching my forehead with her
small hands.  I am lying on a table with a baby blue dress.  My eyes are black olives. 

This is where you find me as a nine year old, in the water playing with rocks.  My pockets
are always filled with rocks after playing at the lake.

At home sometimes I dance slowly with long steps and gentle turns never saying a word.
Sometimes my body feels as if it belongs to someone else.  When I hear music, I touch my
cheeks and shoulders and walk slowly to the kitchen table.  Then I hear a new story.

There is something splendorous about my presence and a body that is still me.  I am
never afraid of these manias I have or the sleepless nights. 

I try to invent instructions to cry, to sing, to speak, I chant “I don’t know” until I come up
with an answer to help my family and others in any way I can on this planet. 

I love my surprises. 
Now I am wearing a necklace decorated with Spanish herbs. This is not a surprise! 

I survive and live through winters and springs learning to conjugate verbs I hear in songs
by birds.  I hear ME in front of ME.  The sadness or happiness is so overwhelming that I
can even smell it.

I have habits that no one should be surprised about.  I wait for voices.  Sometimes my
lazy eye shows up.  I manage to contain my tears in my house.   I read poems to my
mother.  I take care of the water and enjoy my silent space. 

My head is like an alarm when I reach back and remember Amy and my brother, my Aunt
Amalia, my mother’s pain, my village, and my eye makeup runs. 

Growing up I think my father was tireless also.  We had a T.V. that rarely worked.  My
father sat in a plastic chair in the living room and sometimes he pulled up another chair
for me.  He told me that by the age of ten he knew all the capitals of the world and he
knew all about the tools of the Paleolithic age.  He knew about the substances in plants
and trees and about the origin of pomegranates.  My father’s head was full of data, yet
sometimes he seemed like the saddest person I knew.   I understood that while my father
knew the facts, my mother probably knew the truth.

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Not Enough Night
Not Enough Night
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