Venus beat her rivals blue and purple until they turned into violets.
Ophelia gave rosemary and pansies to Laertes. She gave fennel and columbine to Claudius. She gave rue to Gertrude. Ophelia gifted violets to no one for they all wilted when her father died.
Gabriel came to Mary and said to her that she would bear the Son of God in her womb; she replied to the angel, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.” Then, beside her, a violet blossomed.
When Jesus died, the violets beside Mary died.
In Catholic school, they told me what to believe. I was not taught about violets. There was no history lesson in the origins of flowers and feelings, only the origin of sin. I was taught my body was a sin. As we sat criss-cross applesauce with a Bible in the bowl, we did not know we would all grow up to be different sinners. We did not know we would see each other in our hometown streets of rickety bricks and see the sins in every crease and freckle of each other’s faces. When I cried in Mrs. Shoulberg’s first grade class under the ice blue cubbies, I asked her why I had to fear God. The next year, under those same cubbies with more than backpacks weighing overhead, I asked her who made God.
Henry was allowed a Catholic funeral. His parents claimed the death was an accident. They separated. I believe in denial.
There were violets around Ophelia in the river where she drowned. She too was allowed a Christian funeral, her death ruled accidental. Violets did not rest around Henry at the funeral, though. Or perhaps they did, inside the closed casket, upon his pale skin.
In Catholic school often times they recited little metaphors from the gospel to us. We are the sheep and he is the shepherd. We are the clay and he is the potter. We are the vine and he is the branches.
Sow the seed of Christ.
Use this in a sentence: Joseph sowed the seed of Christ right into Mary’s cervix? No . . .
James sowed the seed of Christ right into Mary-Elizabeth’s cervix on top of that dorm room bunk bed.
I read somewhere if you put each seed in your mouth before you plant it, when it grows you will have a deeper connection to the plant. So I kissed each violet seed so softly with the insides of my cheeks before plunging them into the soil nestled between terracotta walls. My DNA is their warm blanket.
I once read a book by Tom Robbins called Still Life with Woodpecker. It became my under-the-pillow book. It became my give-to-your-lover book. I read this book, and now I believe in the moon and I believe in lunaception and I am still foggy on whether love can stay.
If Mary-Elizabeth’s menstruation had been synced to the moon, maybe she would not have been on my floor drinking the tea she asked me to make for her that warm June night. Blue Cohosh. Mugwort. Parsley. Cinnamon. She miscarried. Blood stained her yellow dress. I believe that love will stay, the love she had for her baby. It will stay a seed in her cervix and grow out her throat into a tender violet.
My grandfather used to send me in the mail once a week a VHS of The Muppet Show. Debbie Harry and Harry Belafonte raised me. I could mouth every line. I used to sing “The Rainbow Connection” with my mom while she sewed me into sun-faded quilts. My grandfather taught me how to fish. He was not very good at fishing, but he fished for the quiet. And by that standard, he was excellent. He took me to church, and when we went, he did not sing or say the creed aloud. He went to church for the quiet. He was the kind of man dogs chose to sit by. He was the kind of man who believed in God. He was the kind of poor boy who married the rebellious rich girl, the stereotype. He was the kind of man who gave her everything he had. He was the kind of man who served his country. He was the kind of man who had three daughters and gave them everything he had. He was the kind of man who was a banker instead of an artist. I say was because he was the kind of God-fearing man who got Alzheimer's. Now he is not much of anything. I believe it is not easy being green.
Or made up of skin. Or petals.
When your best friend tells you she is going to get clean in Oakland, do you let her? Do you believe in her? I believe it is not easy loving addicts.
She came to the midwest from the New Jersey suburbs. The state flower of New Jersey is the violet.
At coffee shops she gives the baristas her middle name. Always. Violet.
Henry shut the door to his Volvo station wagon. We’d sat in the backseat of that Volvo. We would steal all sorts of things we did not need and Henry could afford, and that would be our getaway car. We would sing The Strokes in that Volvo because we loved The Strokes because he loved The Strokes and when Henry loved something dammit you loved it too. He did not touch lives; that is too soft. He collided into them. He impacted them. Henry shut the door to his Volvo station wagon and walked onto Kansas Highway 10. His body collided with a 1999 Chevy Malibu.
When I get a call from her and she is screaming, I go to her. We are impermanent people.
I see Henry’s dad driving that silver Volvo with all the bumper stickers unscraped and the cassettes probably still scattered on the passenger side floor. I know why she would take a handful of pills. Violets and Volvos are permanent things.
When I get a call from her and she says it's time to go get tattoos, I go with her. I sat in that dirty tattoo parlor for her. I let that washed up punk put the needle in my arm and in hers because it's a hell of a lot better than other needles. I will look at that tattoo every day on my arm and know it is on hers too. I will believe in permanence. And impermanence.
Today’s incantation is balance.
Or purity. Not purity like chastity. Purity like a violet in a throat. Pollen on the legs of bees. A high priestess, the moon, and all her stars. Sin. Dancing in your underwear with a bottle of tequila. Kermit the frog. Falling in love for the first time. Or the second.
Someday we’ll find it, the rainbow connection / The lovers, the dreamers, and me / All of us under its spell / We know that it’s probably magic.
No one told me about falling in love for the second time. No one told me I would stop trusting my body. No one told me I would see scars when I looked down at my skin, but when my partner looked at my skin, he would just see skin. No one told me about ghosts inside my body or that I would stop trusting my head or how a body can feel like a sin again. No one told me learning to trust stung old wounds like Bactine on scraped knees or church wine in a young throat. I believe love can hurt.
I believe in beliefs as found objects and loves as found objects too. I believe love can grow out of loss. Maybe it has to. That is okay. It is hard for seeds to break the surface of the soil. And that is okay. I believe the ghosts will go find new homes or maybe skin can learn to live with ghosts. Maybe skin has to learn to live with ghosts. Symbiosis.
Today’s incantation is symbiosis.
Or healing. As in Dirty Dancing as the best post-breakup, pre-breakup, or any point in time medicine. As in forgiving your partner for scars they did not make. As in forgiving yourself for scars you did not make. Baptism. Going into the woods and offering it blackberries and mugwort. A sea of butterflies. Driving your dead son’s Volvo. Sending prayers to Oakland. Watching the wound on your thigh scab over and then picking at the damn scab. I believe in scabs.
I bought a rainbow maker for my window. This is what coping with loss looks like. Express shipping.
But can I priority ship a prayer? If Dirty Dancing can heal a breakup, can it heal an addiction? I could express ship a VHS copy of that to Oakland. Is addiction a picked off scab?
Use reconciliation in a sentence: I don’t forgive you for wanting to die. When God closes a casket, we have to grab a crowbar to open a window just to get away from the smell of rotting violets on top of rotting flesh. Drink this in memory of me, or don’t. Go to an AA meeting.
At Jim Henson’s memorial at St. John’s cathedral in New York, thousands of grieving people held tiny butterfly muppets. Their little wings flapped in the air. The sea of butterflies sang “The Rainbow Connection.” Everything was irrevocably human and healing. I need to know if there were violets on his throat.
I always hated church. I hated holding hands and reciting “The Apostle’s Creed.” I never knew the words. I just mouthed them. I did know one line: I believe in the forgiveness of sins.
My church is my body now. I hold hands with people I love and have loved. I know the words to my creed.
I believe in the inbetweens: hands dyed pink from beets, rotten fruit in the basket, dirt under fingernails, dead armadillos, new cotton sheets, film negatives, chamomile baths I fall asleep in, skin flakes peeled off my foot, thrift store champagne coupes, and curried potatoes. I believe typewriters don’t die, their souls just inhabit another place. People too. I believe in eggs any style. Except egg whites. Fuck egg whites. I believe in the medicinal benefits of Dirty Dancing. I believe in Patrick Swayze. I believe in death. I believe in heartbreak. I believe turmeric reverses Alzheimer's, because I have to. I believe a book can change the world or at least my world. I believe love can go, but it can also stay put. I believe love can be told to sit, stay, lay, and roll over, and I believe love will never listen. I believe in divorce. I believe my African violets will grow even though I used the wrong potting soil. I believe in mugwort, magic, and tarot cards. But I also don’t. I believe in you and me more than tarot cards. I believe in losing earrings, childhood, and people. I believe in finding love inside coat pockets and on twin mattresses. I believe in getting clean or at least washing up. I believe in lasting, withstanding. I believe in the lovers, the dreamers, and me.
Sophia Blue Coen is a creative non-fiction writer from Lawrence, Kansas. She studies English education and creative writing at the University of Kansas. Her work blends the magical brightness of childhood with the present. Coen strives to navigate the concept of modern mythology in her work by bending genre and playing with form.