She could barely move her head the cancer climbed her spine reaching upward, clutching vertebrae reaching out, tendrils grasping tearing fragile organs. She would cry, but that would be an admission of defeat, a welcome to death.
I cried out for her, entreated our God for compassion that she might stand by her sons when they uttered the ancient words, by her daughter, adjusting the white lace veil, but he would not answer, drawn into catatonia, seeing severed limbs of children littering the streets of Sarajevo.
She clings tenuously to life as I cling tenuously to faith.
First appeared in Community of Poets Magazine Vol. 21,, 1999 and later in Legal Studies Forum 30:1-2, 2006
There are those occasional moments of clarity that appear without warning and are, as quickly, gone. We expect them less as we age and they oblige us by staying away. Children assume them, and are rarely surprised, as though they see them coming, need no warning and have no expectation anything will come of them. Expectations grow proportionally with age and patience diminishes apace. The child understands all of this with the same fascination she has for a soap bubble, as she watches each float away on the breeze of time.
The night is that bitter cold that slices easily through nylon and Polartec, makes child’s play of fleece and denim. The small rooms glow in the dim radiance of propane lights and heaters as the silver is carefully packed away in plastic tool boxes. The pinyon wood is neatly stacked in forty pyres, some little taller than the white children clinging to their parents’ legs, some reaching twenty-five feet, frozen sentinels against the star gorged sky. The fires are slowly lighted from the top, the green wood slowly creeps to flame as its sap drips fire until the pile is consumed. Half frozen we step away from the sudden oven heat. The smoke climbs obliterating the stars as the procession snakes from the small, adobe church, the men at its head firing rifles into the scowling smoke cloud. A sheet is draped over the four poles a chupah over the statue of the Virgin Mother remarried to her people. She weaves through the crowd, gringos, Indians, looking always upward, beyond the smoke the clouds against which it nestles, beyond all, for another faint glimpse of her Son.
They arrive ones and twos accrete dissolve reform, swell the cacophony grows takes on a joyousness as they ebb and flow; the food disappears the wine the laughter draws you in and you want only to circulate but how with shifting nuclei and then the scheduled end and hours later the last slips away and the space falls silent still echoing what went before.
They come when you least expect them appear seemingly out of nowhere at first so small they go unnoticed but never unheard, for what they lack in size, they make up for in volume. The get beneath your skin, take root, steal into your heart, and find themselves in the brain’s synapses. Before long they cannot be ignored like a drug for which you need ever increasing doses as they become more scarce. You know you are hooked, you know that cold turkey withdrawal is never an option, just something about which you read about and twice a year you cast logic and economics two winds of fate, spend lavishly for you know parents who spoil children must be admonished and abhorred and grandparents who do not should be treated equally so.
When did we stop being of the soil and begin to fear it, to tell our children not to touch the ground, it is dirty when once it was only dirt, and we put it in our mouths, from time to time trying to drive our mothers crazy. She says if you are going to plant wear gloves, and when she walks away I pull them off of my hands and plunge fingers into the turned and dampened soil. This, I am convinced, is how it is supposed to be, how nature intended, before designer dyed mulch, rubber mulch, before we became the robots our parents’ sci-fi writers anticipated. Later, in the shower, scraping the dirt from beneath fingernails, I watch as it flows reluctantly down the drain I bid farewell to that bit of my childhood but I swear I won’t deny my grandchildren.
They gather this time every week, they would feel lost if they did otherwise. The don’t do it out of any sense of duty or higher calling, and they expect nothing in return for having done so. They aren’t even following directions or obeying some unwritten rule. They object to most rules, demand logic before even pausing to consider requests for action. Holidays do throw off their schedule but they work around them as best they can. Theirs is a joyous group and only the swings groan under their laughter as their feet reach up to kick the clouds, before night falls on the playground.