Joan Baez walked into my mother’s house looking better in her 70s then she did in her 20s, when she and then-boyfriend Bob Dylan were playing Woodstock and rocking the music world.
“You look more beautiful now than ever,” Joan said as she hugged Gabriele, snatching the unspoken thought out of my head. Joan, who once spent the night meditating under the stars in my mother’s tree house, has brown eyes that take you in completely and moves with the quiet grace of a cat–but that’s not what makes her extraordinary. With with her olive skin, silky voice, and silver jewelry, it is more Baez’s aura of a modern-day gypsy fortune-teller–a seer wise beyond this world.
Joan met Gabriele in one of my mom’s writing workshops and they stayed close– perhaps because Baez recognized a fellow seer in my mom (Gabriele does have gypsy heritage, so watch out!). I have no idea what my mom and Joan talked about sitting side by side on the couch, their voices low and gentle, but I bet it was more about life than death. At one point, when I interrupted to adjust my mom’s feeding tube, its plastic edges digging into her skin like a painful crown of thorns, Joan whipped on some sterile gloves like some matter-of-fact nurse and helped, her sienna-painted fingernails splattered with white from a recent painting session. I don’t know why this simple kindness made my heart feel too full.
Baez left the same way she came in, the door clicking quietly behind her, no tears or real goodbye to her weakened, white-haired friend. I wanted to follow along behind, just like her giant blond dog, feeling desperate to repurpose some of the peace Joan radiates for my own edgy sanity. Instead, I sat down at my computer and pulled up a poem Joan wrote for my mom a few months ago. And in its words, I found solace.
Poem for Gabriele – by Joan Baez
- Life’s fucking twists and turns are
- Spinning out of control for this little minute
- And the next and the next
- Remember, then how much you are loved
- By all of us
- Who exploded into
- Words on paper
- Yes this is what it can be!
- As easy as this
- A turn of the mind
- A glance
- A ray
- A speck
- The field a workshop
- The cricket a visitor
- The cow my sister
- My mom the fountain of youth
- And my son
- A father
- To correct the sins
- Of generations
- As for you,
- You kicked the devil in the shins once or twice
- You are the woman who will do it again.