I can’t remember what year it was, or why I was in his apartment, half sprawled across the sofa, my girlfriend sitting with his, or one of his, he had many, on the floor, listening to Inside Bert Somers, and thinking that was the last place on earth I intended to go that evening.
I recall the wine was good, but then anything a step up from Ripple or Boone’s Farm was good, and the rugs were threadbare.
I was never a fan of Bert, didn’t know until today that he died and was buried in Valhalla, thirty years ago, not long after my youth did as well, although I am here to mourn that at least.
It wasn’t lost on me, mother, that this year on the anniversary of death, you had been gone eighteen years, Chai in your beloved Hebrew, a lifetime for me, having never met you save in the half of my genes you implanted in me when I was implanted in you.
As you aged, alone, did you wonder what became of the closest family you had after your parents were interred in the soil of Charleston? Did you ever regret not knowing, or were you comfortable that the Jewish Family Service Agency would make a selection of which you would have approved had your approval been sought.
You have grandsons and greatgrandchildren who will mourn me, carry my memory forward, but know that I do the same for you, and you never aged a day from that one when the photographer took your college yearbook photo, a grainy copy of which is tucked in my wallet and heart.
I saw a picture of you today, although I can’t be certain when it was taken, and while I can easily say that you look exactly as I remember you, that is saying nothing really, for moments after I took the picture we said goodbye to each other, intending to meet again, knowing the chances of that were minuscule.
I have returned your picture to a place of safekeeping where, some months or years from now, I will pull it out and remark that you look exactly as I remember you, but more importantly, perhaps, I will be keeping you alive, and in this fraught world, that is something to be appreciated, even if you haven’t the vaguest idea it is happening
Be well dear friend, and if not, be eternal for a bit longer, be you dead or much alive.
Of course, she’s sitting there, calmly, staring off onto space. She has to know something is amiss, no one has come to visit her in days, but she knows that whenever, if ever, whatever it is that is happening is finally over, that they will once again return, stare at her, wonder aloud and silently why she is smiling, and she will as always say nothing, for she was once told that it is better always to leave them wanting more.
Tomorrow Paris will count its newest dead, and the hospitals will pray the tide of bodies has been stemmed, or diminished and none of those in the battle will pause and consider DaVinci’s lady imprisoned forever in her sterile room, an eternal prisoner.
First published in Dreich, Issue 20, Autumn 2020 (Scotland)
I wrote a poem for my father, about how one afternoon the oddly green ’57 Caddy appeared in the driveway and he polished its chrome for hours, even waxed the black bumper bullets. It was the love of his life he said, except for his wife, he added after a moment. The years would prove that addition was most likely false. I could send him the poem, he might actually read it, he would remember the Caddy, much as he now remembers my mother, with a fondness that fills the voids in his fading memory. He is not much for poetry, never was, wasn’t all that much for reading and poetry had to rhyme, at least the good ones did, but while he agrees with Hecht, he would no more recognize that name than that of Amichai, even rewritten in the grating hand of Ted Hughes. My father does not understand poetry, does not understand all that much these days and what little he does bears constant repetition, and yet he remembers well odd bits and pieces and forms them into his own fictions that become momentary realities. He is Brodsky rewriting Mandelstam, a new Tristia, sharing only a name with its precursor, but one its author claims is truest to its origin. My poem will be tucked away inside a yellowing journal, his Caddy is rust and scrap, but in his dreams he carefully polishes the chrome and waxes the bumper bullets.
First appeared in The Alchemy Spoon, Issue 1, Summer 2020