Mark your doorpost with the blood of the lamb for this may be the night when God’s emissary arrives for the killing of the first born. Will he be a night bird half raven, half vulture or an aged man concealing his weapon in shabby robes.
Mark your doorpost and check it often for if your neighbor wipes the blood away, you will be visited and no amount of pleading will deter him from his task. There are no interim plagues remaining to buy you time, if he chooses to come tonight.
Put your ear against the window and listen for him. Will he come on cat’s paws or the rasp of lungs slowly drowning?. Will coins jangle in his pocket, to pay your fare to the ferryman?
But if you do not believe, perhaps he will forget to come.
First published in The Right to Depart, Plain View Press (2008)
It wasn’t lost on me, mother, that this year on the anniversary of death, you had been gone eighteen years, Chai in your beloved Hebrew, a lifetime for me, having never met you save in the half of my genes you implanted in me when I was implanted in you.
As you aged, alone, did you wonder what became of the closest family you had after your parents were interred in the soil of Charleston? Did you ever regret not knowing, or were you comfortable that the Jewish Family Service Agency would make a selection of which you would have approved had your approval been sought.
You have grandsons and greatgrandchildren who will mourn me, carry my memory forward, but know that I do the same for you, and you never aged a day from that one when the photographer took your college yearbook photo, a grainy copy of which is tucked in my wallet and heart.
10,000 origami cranes floated down over Tokyo each bearing the soul of one gone in nature’s recent fury. Each crane cried freely the tears flowing into the Sumida forming a wave that washes back to the sea, replenishing its loss. We, too, shed our tears and look skyward sad in the knowledge that with each passing day still more cranes will fill the sky more tears seep back to the still angry sea.
I have yet to wander the medieval battlefields of Europe and it increasingly seems I never will. I have visited my share of castles in Ireland and Scotland, but the acoustics there are not good, and I did not hear the anguished cry of soldiers falling in battle,
I have seen rivers, quiet now, where the blood of the vanquished must have flowed in this war and that, for Europe is a place of wars, the perpetual gameboard for the greedy and those who imagine themselves emperors.
I come from a distant place, where three wars on its soil was deemed sufficient, but who will freely give others the wars they have grown altogether too used to fighting, and we gladly offer up our sons to aid in the combat so long as we only receive their bodies in the dark of night.
And perhaps that is our failing, for we know war well, but we keep ourselves clean, and marvel at the destruction we will never know first hand.
My granddaughter is intensely concerned with the growing loss of species, and rightly so, and I share her fears, though I feel largely powerless to do anything.
She has the faith of youth, a belief that she and her peers can, with work, effect a lasting change, climb up the slippery slope which we have cast them down, and save other species from a fate nature never could have intended.
But she cannot fathom the losses that I have seen, things I knew rendered extinct by her generation, and that of her parents, the cassette player, the typewriter, carbon paper, and stationery and a writing desk, to name only a few, but at least the haven’t outdated my Blackberry.
The clouds well up over the foothills casting a gray pall, bearing the angry spirits of the chindi who dance amid the scrub juniper. Brother Serra, was this what you found, wandering along the coast, tending the odd sheep, Indian and whatever else crossed your path?
The blue bird hopping across the dried grasses puffing its grey breastplate and cape sitting back, its long tail feathers a perfect counterbalance. It stares at the oppressing clouds and senses the impending rain. The horses wandering the hill pausing to graze on the sparse green grasses. The roan mare stares at the colt dashing among the trees then returns to her meal, awaiting the onset of evening.
The chindi await the fall of night when they are free to roam and steal other souls. Was your water rite more powerful than the blessing chants? Did you ward off their evil and purify the breeze of the mountains?