I approach it slowly, overcome by fear and desire, warned to step carefully over the uneven earth that on this hillside haven set behind the rusting wrought iron fence , its master lock dangling askew, peers out through the trees to the Kanawha river flowing unknowingly through the valley.
The stone is set in line with the others, neatly incised, a name, English and Hebrew, two petunias, cornered, in perpetual bloom, a beloved sister and aunt, and unstated, unknown perhaps, a mother whose son, gently touching the stone, washes her with my tears, and we speak of love in silence, and I, a child of sixty-seven, embrace my mother for the first time, and I am finally and for the first time, complete
They speak of me, never to me, with terms like breakage, as though life, mine at least, is a glass bottle on a shelf with so many others, and a certain percentage are pre- assumed to break and be discarded and no one will bat an eyelash.
To them I am nameless, one of many, stock in trade, with no provenance, or at least none they would grant me, and they question my origins, as though I may not be worthy enough to even be considered as future breakage.
I want to remind them that they invited me here, invited so many others, that we are here because it was one place we were going to be allowed, but they have grown deaf, and blind, and I must wait until they, too, soon, are swept from the shelf and placed in clearance, then discarded.
Do those, who imagine themselves leaders, or smarter and better than the rest of us, and who deny science, (no, the amassing of money is not a law of physics) plan to take up swimming?
Or will they wait until the bears are at their door, their white coats grayed by the last belches of soggy coal, and then bemoan the fact that their yachts have floated off on the rising seas that now lap at their once beach view feet.
It’s no matter to most of the people of the world who starved to death or died of disease years ago.
I wrote a poem for my father, about how one afternoon the oddly green ’57 Caddy appeared in the driveway and he polished its chrome for hours, even waxed the black bumper bullets. It was the love of his life he said, except for his wife, he added after a moment. The years would prove that addition was most likely false. I could send him the poem, he might actually read it, he would remember the Caddy, much as he now remembers my mother, with a fondness that fills the voids in his fading memory. He is not much for poetry, never was, wasn’t all that much for reading and poetry had to rhyme, at least the good ones did, but while he agrees with Hecht, he would no more recognize that name than that of Amichai, even rewritten in the grating hand of Ted Hughes. My father does not understand poetry, does not understand all that much these days and what little he does bears constant repetition, and yet he remembers well odd bits and pieces and forms them into his own fictions that become momentary realities. He is Brodsky rewriting Mandelstam, a new Tristia, sharing only a name with its precursor, but one its author claims is truest to its origin. My poem will be tucked away inside a yellowing journal, his Caddy is rust and scrap, but in his dreams he carefully polishes the chrome and waxes the bumper bullets.
First appeared in The Alchemy Spoon, Issue 1, Summer 2020
It is easier to think about death on a wintery evening, when so much of life slips into stasis, and there is nothing to do but concede your mortality, and with good fortune, then slip into sleep before being lost in a sea of depression.
I must be thankful for my dreams for they keep the night from becoming the little death of the ancient philosophers, and on awakening in the morning, the mantle of snow that has painted the world in a glittering white, does not demand the shovel as yet, but celebrates the world’s rebirth, and with a nod to the sun, my own.
I spend considerable time thinking about what it is that I am, what is I, whether Descartes’ God or Spinoza’s could possibly exist, or must if I can have meaning beyond self-reflection, needing a godly mirror, and image reflected. Cogito, on what basis can I draw that conclusion what logical proof, carefully constructed will not fall under the weight of the axiom, cogito cogito but of what? Keys that spit words that fade under a misplaced finger, she caught in the web twisting, unable to pull free, staring at an approaching holiday of praying forgiveness Vidui, as though to posit God is to validate emotions, control impulses which leap synapses and flit and fade, I have sinned and transgressed I have violated laws and statutes and I beg forgiveness that I might live, this I, this cogito who has no external reference save God which makes all things real, all illusion. It is comforting knowing in death the soul is carried on, thought lingers, or does it cease such that I am not for I think not, yet why should I fear, for when it is done, I will not have been save as a reference point, a linchpin from which may hang ornaments of a life, a tidy sum.