Mouth Quill

Sugar House Review_Mouth Quill
A version of the poem “Mouth Quill” by Kaja Weeks was first published in the literary journal Sugar House Review, Fall/Winter 2017.

Mouth Quill*

At home my stroke-assaulted mother
you startle and confound me.
On my childhood bed
we eye each other.

Metallic ringing runs from your mouth.
Wailing not at gods
but from some crucible of the gods.
From those Northlands
winds blow low and rise, they ripen.
Your incantation pelts the room,
the color of blue sorrow.
One river, two rivers, three rivers, more.

My voice fails. I fear to go there
and utter nothing.
I offer recorded purity,
nuns singing 9th century Christian chant:

Gloria, laus, et honor tibi sit
Rex Christe, Redemptor.

Isn’t this your God?
No! You smack the sounding device
and, though words have eluded you for months,
deep-throated, you decree,
“This is false death!”
and renew your endless spell.

We are so far from singing together.
I don’t know how to join you:
my mouth quill has stilled.
Oh, Mesi Marja-memmekene, Honey Mama-berry,
Emakene hellekene, my Mother my dear.
Äiu, äiu, äiu, once you charmed me to slumber
on silken nets in this space of braided hair.



* Mouth quill – “Suude sulg,” is a singer’s magic tool, and is found in Estonian mythic lore and runic verses


Author’s Note: Mouth Quill is a poem from a chapbook manuscript (in progress) in which writings reflect both the trauma and beauty of Estonian culture and history as it rooted in my personal journey and identity.

A Girl’s Singing Nirvana, My Mother’s Voice

A Girl’s Singing Nirvana, My Mother’s Voice is a lyrical essay with themes of autism in the young and stroke in the elderly. It tells a story of how each was able to use singing when wordlessness compounded their lives and reveals my journey with them.

A Girl’s Singing Nirvana, My Mother’s Voice by Kaja Weeks was first published by The Potomac Review, A Literary Arts Quarterly in 2015. I am very pleased and proud that the journal nominated my essay for a Pushcart Prize.

A Girl’s Singing Nirvana, My Mother’s Voice_Excerpt

A Girl’s Singing Nirvana, My Mother’s Voice copyright © 2015 by Kaja Weeks

The Silver Swan and Her Stroke: First Songs as Last Songs

My essay, The Silver Swan and Her Stroke: First Songs as Last Songs, is rooted in the profound effects of singing as entwined with mysteries of communication and love.

The poetic verse alluded to here, The Silver Swan, was first published in 1612 in the madrigal by Orlando Gibbons and illustrates the legend of “the swan song” – that silver swans sing only once, before their death. You can hear a beautiful performance of The Silver Swan round by British a cappella vocal ensemble, The King Singers.

The silver swan, who living had no note,
when death approached unlocked her silent throat;
Leaning her breast against the reedy shore,
thus sung her first and last, and sung no more.
Farewell, all joys; O Death, come close mine eyes;
More geese than swans now live, more fools than wise.

I am so pleased that this essay was published by Ars Medica: A Journal of Medicine, The Arts, and Humanities, Winter 2017. Ars Medica is the only medical literary journal in Canada, and one of a handful of such journals in the world. Click here to read the full piece at Ars Medica or The Silver Swan and Her Stroke_Kaja Weeks_Ars Medica_2017 to read in PDF format.


ABSTRACT

The Silver Swan and Her Stroke: First Songs as Last Songs

By Kaja Weeks

This is a view of a massive stroke followed by rare communications through singing and vocalization between an elegant lady born by the Baltic Sea almost 100 years ago and her daughter (the author). A reflective true account with story-like narration, it conveys the intersection of a musically rhythmic but “pitch deaf” mother and classically-trained singer daughter at their final crossroads. The stunning scene of hearing her mother, unable to speak, but singing “with full power and nuance, like a glorious Wagnerian soprano,” has the author first considering the extraordinary plasticity of the brain, and then, as a daughter, the poignant meaning of her mother’s sounds, who like the “Silver Swan,” sung her first and last, and sung no more.”


 The Silver Swan and Her Stroke: First Songs as Last Songs copyright © 2016 by Kaja Weeks