Mi Ju, Mother, 2015 (Artist Website)
Acrylic on canvas and cut out paper
72 x 58”


As a child, my mother asked me: Will you die for Christ? Hickory incense—
when I first held my nine-weeks-early son, briars broken, lamentations,
I thought to clothe him in my own skin. My dispersal into a flock, a swarm,
a gallery of winged stars—how easy to imagine I could die for him. I admit it:
I didn’t want to live without him. Heaven’s a place—full of swans, of milk.
Before it ever happens, you make a choice. Littlest bones. His bones parted
metal chimes, black calligraphy backlit through parchment, wind. Imagine
José Luis Sánchez del Río rebel-fighting in the Cristero War. Delicate skeleton,
seeded to grow 12 pairs of ribs. Let’s say the boy’s captured. Say the soldiers tell
him to renounce God. José’s mother drew tiny star maps (yes, the heavens)
on his soles. When I first touched my son, my mother said, if he doesn’t live,
he’ll be with Christ. Shiny, silver fished xylophone waiting in his nursery. My
gossamer son. Little bones, you’ll bear my son to the end of his life. My secret
ossuary. José’s soles knifed off when he wouldn’t deny. Imagine your child’s
martyrdom. Your own. A choice some of us were born to make. Like José, who
walked on holy-ghosted bone feet, in love, in desperate love, shouting Viva
Cristo Rey, Viva Cristo Rey,
 soldiers shooting, missing till they didn’t.

Nicole Rollender