The woman at the next table stares at her fork with eyes which appear bottomless pools of sorrow. She picks at the noodles, raises and lowers the glass of wine without sipping. She is lost within herself and even the waiter approaches with trepidation for fear of falling in and drowning in her sadness. In her eyes are pools of cabernet spilled from glasses cast aside by retreating lovers, the blood of a mother who died in her birth, tears of a father hopelessly alone. You see him returning to the table and a smile of faint hope crosses her lips, lingers a moment and is drawn into her eyes. She watches him finish his wine and with a nod of his head, hers, and she sinks back deep within herself.
First appeared in Erothanatos, Vol. 3, No. 3, July 2019 at Pg. 41
As we walked slowly through the Forum
the Coliseum receding into the late
afternoon, the Virgins stood patiently
as befits a priestess trained to avoid
the stares of passing men, even tourists
such as we were, the columns staring
down reminding us of our youth
despite the birthdays that we celebrated
with the joy of togetherness, and
the nagging knowledge that we were
another year closer to that moment
we refuse to acknowledge, aware
always of its growing proximity.
We stare back at the Coliseum,
as the sun slides behind its walls,
and as the vendors selling all manner
of items the buyer will regret
in mid-flight home pack up for the day,
I imagine Caesar pausing in thought
then, sneering, turning his thumb down.
Mom died, the text message read, similar words we’ve been hearing too frequently but always leaving us with the same hopelessness. The words my brother, estranged now, estranged then, come to think of it, said two years ago in a quickly left phone message. I thought of confronting him, but when he never answered, I knew I couldn’t say what I needed in a text message. When my mother-in-law died my wife and I were there, watched as she took her final breath, easy, calm, as if to say, this passage is easier than I thought given all the time I asked God to let me take it. We didn’t feel helpless that day, more like silent observers, standing on the pier as the ship slipped into a vast ocean on the maiden voyage a very new sort.
forty-three years I’ve searched for my voice a whisper cracked hoarse one moment fluid another then silent. I shape words which fall off my tongue and lie in puddles on the floor. I step in them slipping regaining perilous toehold. I scream strangled thoughts dreams are forgotten the night laughs, she touches my forehead with her lips I welcome the silence of sleep.
First appeared in RE:AL The Journal of Liberal Arts 23:2, 1998
She moves with the fluidity that suggests she has been trained as a dancer, though she denies it, says that she has no interest in dance, barely tolerates music and then only because it sometimes is a requirement. She smiles, though it doesn’t seem at all natural to her, more another thing she does because she believes is quite often required. Hers is a life of requirements and she strives to be compliant, choosing to hide a seething passion deep within, for it terrifies her: this is what she was taught by her mother, how she survived four older brothers, a father who feared his reflection in the whiskey bottle and quickly erased it,, the devil deal with consequences, the pain on her mother’s face, she often too slow to duck. She knows the day is coming when he will be repaid by her, and she hopes no one she loves is near Ground Zero.