How to Survive Quarantine with Ancient Matriarchal Wisdom by Theresa Göttl Brightman

“Anxiety is the handmaiden of creativity," wrote T.S. Eliot. To help make productive use of our self-isolation and social distancing, Lit Cleveland is offering free writing challenges each week via our newsletter. The following piece is a response to the "How To" prompt.

How to Survive Quarantine with Ancient Matriarchal Wisdom

by Theresa Göttl Brightman

Remember your ancestral magic.  

Dig into your veins, dissect your blood cells,

open the notes tucked within your DNA.  

Unpack the sorcery passed through your genes

along with the color of your eyes and the

shape of your nose,

the secret powers that discovered ways to

turn animal hair into thread  

into cloth

into clothes,

the gift of nurturing a seed with dirt and water

to transform into a year’s worth of food and beauty,

and the most prized magic of all,

the alchemy of a handful of flour and a little oil

to feed the masses.  

Assess your pantry, your secret stores.

Someone else may scoff, but your elders

whisper in your ears that a feast awaits your hands.

Boil the water.

Chop the potatoes. Add oil to flour. Crack an egg

that is a prayer, that is an egg.

Light a fire. Use a candle  

if there is no wood to burn.

Your Nonna, your Oma, your Abuela, your Bibi,

greats and greats and worlds and times removed,

would pluck fruit from the vines. If you do not have vines, you may open a can.  While the fuel is different, not wood or coal

or dried dung,

the stove still stands,

an altar of fire where you place your offerings.

Say the words over the book.

Shake a red powder into your hand.

Chant “paprika”, but not with the flat vowels of English. Say “PAH-pri-KAH” the way your forebears did,

a sigh,  

a whisper,

an invocation.