The priest droned on, a short passage from Micah had some questioning prophecy. Within the coffin we suspect Agnes too grew even more impatient, wanting final rest, wanting the party to begin, hating the tears. Later, with wine flowing, somewhere in the gray sky I imagine her knowing wink.
It is that moment when the moon is a glaring crescent, slowly engulfed by the impending night — when the few clouds give out their fading glow In the jaundiced light of the sodium arc street lamp.- It nestles the curb — at first a small bird — when touched, a twisted piece of root
I want to walk into the weed-strewn aging cemetery, stand in the shadow of the expressway, peel the uncut grass from around her head- stone. I remember her arthritic hands clutching mine, in her dark, morgueish apartment, smelling of vinyl camphor borsht I saw her last in a hospital bed where they catalog and store those awaiting death, stared at the well-tubed skeleton barely indenting starched white sheets. She smiled wanly and whispershouted my name — I held my ground unable to cross the river of years unwilling to touch her outstretched hand. She had no face then, no face now, only an even fainter smell of age of camphor of lilac of must
Next to the polished headstone lies a small, twisted root. I wish it were a bird, I could place gently on the lowest branch of the old maple that oversees her slow departure.
First appeared in Legal Studies Forum, Vol. 30, No. 1-2, 2006 and in The Right to Depart, Plainview Press, 2008.
This morning I made the mistake of asking where the coffee beans were. My spouse didn’t hear me, but Siri offered her opinion, leaning toward Guatemala. That didn’t set well with Alexa who said they were either in the cabinet over the stove, of in Papua New Guinea, since she prefers lower acidic coffee. Probably unsurprising, but Siri did not take well to being corrected, and got into it with Alexa, and I was left trying to interject, being ignored. I asked the Google Voice Assistant to intercede, but it only wanted to know which voice I wanted it to speak with, and then froze completely awaiting my answer.
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.
He only wants to know , he says what she fears most,what is her phobia, everyone has at least one, he claims. She thinks about this for a while then smiles and says her one true fear is called phobophobia, and that she says positively terrorizes her. He looks confused and she sees it. I fear, she adds, people who are in fear even though I know they aren’t contagious. He smiled, took her hand, and said You have nothing to fear from me for I am generally known to be fearless. At that she cringed, knowing that Her second greatest fear was mythophobia and he was a walking, talking example.
As a child I often flew kites, which is to say that I ran haphazardly pulling a string and dragging a wood frames paper rhombus across the park. My father laughed until seeing me on the edge of tears he took up the string and dragged the kite across the park. One day a strong wind blew across the park and the kite lifted into the sky trailing its string to taunt 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.