I spent too much time looking backward, looking into the past, looking into the mirror to frame a dream history of my desires and fears. He called one morning, left a message, “Mother died, more details will follow.” A mother his by birth, mine by legal act. I should have felt stunned anger, I said quietly to myself he’s cocky, has issues, and went about momentary mourning. That is the psyche of the adoptee who was never family, always an adjunct. Later my antediluvian dreams gave way under a torrent of deoxyribonucleic acid rain. She who I imagined in the mirror took name, took shape from and old yearbook, offered a history, a family, a heritage. When I knelt at her grave she told me her story in hushed tones, or was it the breeze in the pines on the hill overlooking the Kanawha? I bid her farewell that day, placed a pebble on her headstone, stroked the cold marble and mourned an untouched mother.
They took up shovels, pickaxes, bare fingers to pry up the seedlings, the saplings just taking root and the seeds just planted still watered by the sweat and tears of those who lovingly tilled the brittle soil.
They offered nothing in return, barren ground where only anger grew, fertilized by fear, by by greed, by blindness.
Will we sit by and watch as promises wither under an ever stronger, more glaring sun, as hopes are blown away by arid winds, or will we again return to the soil, start over, our faith now perennial.
They arrive after a long flight from tyranny, from oppression from the nightmare of endless fear, from hunger, from faith denied, from the bottomless depths of poverty, scarred memories etched in their souls, hoping for an ending as much as wishing for a new beginning. They have been here, a new generation, raised on the stories, versed in the painful history, still residual anger born of love for those who fled, without the pain of experience, who can forget when it is others who now wish only to arrive to the freedom they have known since childhood
We are planning the funeral for Roe today, eulogies fully ready, for we are certain the death was slow and painful and now all we can do is mourn.
Some we know will not attend, Brown out of fear, knowing the eventual consequences of this loss, Miranda because he is already marked, hounded by those in power, an easy mark.
Sullivan may be there, happy that he can go after them again if they even speak his name innocently or by mistake.
It will be a sad moment, one we have dreaded of late, one we thought would never come and we will mourn our dear friend Stare Decisis*, stabbed in the back by those who vowed to defend him.
N.B. As you may know or have guessed, I am a happily retired attorney, who was taught that stare decisis should be sacrosanct. Brown is the landmark school segregation case, Miranda the much eroded protection for those under police custody, and Sullivan the case on defamation establishing a higher standard that plaintiffs must meet if they are public figures. It remains a hallmark of First Amendment law regarding freedom of the press.
Stare decisis is the doctrine that courts will adhere to precedent in making their decisions. Stare decisis means “to stand by things decided” in Latin.
Along the banks of the barge canal in the village park, a man older, his hair white, almost a mane, sits on the breakwall feeding Wonder bread to the small flotilla of ducks. Tearing shreds of crust from a slice, he casts it onto the water and smiles as they bob for the crumbs. He tells them the story of his life as though they were his oldest friends. My Anna, he says, was a special woman, I met her one night in the cramped vestibule of an Indian take away in London during a blackout. We heard the sirens and then a blast, not far off. She grabbed my arm in fear. She was from Marlow-on-Thames, she lived in a small flat in the Bottom, she worked days in a millinery, and at night tended bar at the Local, until the war. She’s been gone two years now and I miss her terribly especially late at night. A goose slowly swims over awaiting her meal, she looks deeply into his eyes. How are you, dearest Anna, it is not the same without you late at night when the silence is broken again by the sirens.
First Published in Friends & Friendship Vol. 1, The Poet, 2021