He’s mostly bald
and generally something of a grouch.
When he enters a room, the key
is to nod in recognition
but not in invitation.
You know, regardless
of the topic at hand,
he will have something
to say and it, no matter how
you perfume it, will nevertheless
have that air of negativity
he has so ably mastered.
So many others, and especially you,
have perfected the art
of deflected avoidance,
at least until that moment
you come face-to-face with him
in your morning mirror.
It looks perfectly normal, the kind
of restaurant you would seek out
on a Friday night in a distant city.
The people look like those you know
or could know, those from home for instance.
She is not remarkable, blonde, older,
a slightly twisted smile, blue eyes,
but on meeting there is a sudden distance
as though this is not a normal world,
certainly not the world where
you first met a cousin, and you have
a nagging feeling, which grows during the meal
that one of you is an alien, an avatar
from some other world, parallel perhaps,
and this reality is anything but, although
the pennette is quite remarkable.
Would you meet your first true relative at age 62
you know that while blood may be thicker than water,
it also congeals just as easily.
I am a child of ghosts, my parents
adopted and birth, all visit me,
but only in my dreams, for ghosts
prefer the reality that dreams allow.
Some say that dreams are not real,
but they live in the mind as do
every other reality I experience
each day, my senses merely
inexact lenses for the mind.
Perhaps dreams are more accurate,
a deeper reality in the end,
for they arise without passing
through the lenses of the senses,
whole and complete, and as quickly gone.
I am a child of ghosts, and I
will eventually join them,
haunting the dreams of others.
The cemetery is a place of monologues,
family histories laid bare, admissions,
secrets long kept hidden finally revealed
You must listen carefully, for the voices
speak only in hushed tones,
befitting both place and circumstance.
There is no dialog, no riposte, no
response for in this place, that
would be put of place, censorious,
Thy are respectful, one speaking,
a pause, then the next, and time
seems meaningless to them, the tale
is all that still matters, and matters deeply.
Pause, if you will, and learn, but say
nothing for we dare not speak
ill of the dead.
My mother wanted to tell me
of my great-grandmother,
a woman she barely knew,
but who she imagined more fully
that life itself
would ever have allowed.
History, in her hands
was malleable, you could
shape it in ways never happened.
She wanted to tell me
but she knew that
her grandmother wouldn’t approve
of adopting when your womb
was perfectly serviceable,
certainly not for a man
more than a decade older
who could not uphold
his most sacred obligation.
She wanted to tell me,
but I am adopted
and this woman can be
no more than a story
of passing relevance to me.
There is a statue of William Penn
atop the city hall in Philadelphia
seeming to stare down over the city
with bronze eyes incapable of seeing.
Hagar wandered the wilderness
after she was evicted by Abraham
at Sarah’s urging, the price
of jealousy, with bread and water
and the promise of a great nation.
It is pure speculation whether
Hagar was enslaved and freed
or, as we would claim it today,
employed by the family. In the end
the distinction matters little.
Penn remains blind atop the building
Hagar and Ishmael are long dead,
and Jefferson likely had children
with one of his slaves, or so
the DNA evidence indicates.
I am of Norwegian and Scottish
patrilineal heritage it appears
though my great nation is
a six year old girl and
almost three year old boy.
They were always almost mythological,
heroes of a people I could only
imagine as my own, knowing I came
from a far different place, one
of shtetls and pogroms, of seaside
villages, the beaches of Cascais.
It was half a lie, but I couldn’t
know it then, couldn’t guess
my dream was reality, my reality
a dream torn away by DNA.
In a moment my unknown Portuguese
father was unborn, replaced
by a faceless man of Celtic
soil who marched to the piper
highland or uillean, the bodhran,
who stood alongside Pearse
and Connolly, Bonnie Charlie,
and a century on, I’ll lift
a pint of Guinness in their honor,
take a wee dram of Talisker
and whisper Slainte to
the unknown generations
that brought me here.