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
What I most want to do now, locked in by something unseen, is to wander the streets of cities here, Europe, it hardly matters, and find statues whose plaques are worn away or gone missing, now nameless souls of once lesser fame meriting a bronze or of such ego as donating their own image to the town.
They are forgotten souls, often rightfully so no doubt, but even the forgotten deserve a name merit a history and higher purpose, and I would offer those, with Banksy-like labels, this old bearded man, now Ignatius Fatuus, best remembered for inventing the pyramidal bread pan, where each loaf is uniformly burned on top, and there Shoshanna Chesed, who pointed out that if we were created in God’s image, it is likely God is a woman given the planet’s gender distribution, before the zealots stone her for blasphemy, insuring their own ultimate, eventual ticket to hell.
But perhaps the virus will grow tired of us, mutate, and go after one of the myriads more intelligent species we have not yet foolishly or greedily rendered extinct.
First appeared in The Poet: A New World, Autumn 2020
It was a small house, that much I still remember clearly, not wide, what some called a railroad flat, but ours had two floors, as if two railroad cars had been stacked one on top of the other.
We, luckily, had the bottom, or at least that’s what my father said, and his varicose veined legs applauded his selection of our new home.
I was less convinced as Mrs. McCarthy upstairs was a Reubenesque lady, that was my mother’s term, her sons were every bit as large, and they seemed to walk about at all hours, mostly over my room, leaving me to wonder amid the creaking, when the ceiling might suddenly blanket me.
That never happened, and I have no idea what became of the McCarthy’s, but I would have buried my father last year if my step-brother had bothered to give me the location of the body in his text telling me of his death.
So I am again an orphan, but in the process of building a new home as wide as it is long, and with only a single floor, and the birds have promised to be tread lightly at night.
It was the moment they said, we picked you, that I knew they had not. They thought they had to say it. They knew they shouldn’t. I was the next gumball down the chute. You put in your nickel, move the lever and wait. Actually it wasn’t quite like that. If you don’t like the color or flavor of gumball, you throw it out or give it to someone else. Spend another nickel, simple. In adoption, there was no do over. In my case as well. Well there was, actually, but if you give one back, you don’t get another unless there was a really big and hidden problem. Read the fine print, the lawyers say, adoptees come with no warranty, and you take us as is. You wouldn’t buy a car that way, would you.
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.