I called my mother the other day
and she did not answer, which
she would always do when I called.
The dead, I concluded, no longer
play by the rules they did
when they were still alive.
Of course she will call me soon,
disrupting my sleep, and chastise
me for not trying again.
But she will quickly slip into
reading the list of what
she expects from me, for
either living or dead,
mother’s expectations must
always be met, no matter what.
She likes to tell him that he
came from a small village in Lithuania.
He prefers to remind her that he
was born in the District of Columbia
which has never been mistaken
for a small village in Lithuania,
although he knows he could find
several who speak Lithuanian there.
And, he points out to her, that would
only be half the story, for he is certain
the father he has never met
never set foot, genetic or actual,
anywhere in Lithuania.
Still, in his dreams, he can sit
with the grandfather he never met
and they will converse in Lithuanian.
As night settles in
the clouds grow uncertain
of their intentions.
It is hard to realize
that a boundary
is silently crossed
and summer has
retreated into the past,
leaving a new season
in its wake, harder
to know that tomorrow
we will awaken into
an autumn that at first
seems no different
then her mother, only
the promise of fall-
ing leaves soon painting
her in her true colors.
It’s odd how your stature
has grown as I dream of you
occasionally staring at
your yearbook picture.
It was only four years ago
that I knew you existed, but
hadn’t the faintest idea of who
you were, anything about your life,
why you gave me up, and, therefore
who it was I might have been.
Now you are a selfless icon, caring
more for siblings who needed education,
at the immediate cost of your own,
a child who needed two parents
in a world that frowned deeply
on anything less than a pair.
Someday soon, I will visit your grave,
place a small stone upon your stone,
and a kiss, the closest
I can ever hope, ever dream
to coming to the face of my mother.
He is fond of the name
Ernesto Rodrigo Guttierez.
The fact is,
he loves the name.
He knows it has
a certain nobility to it.
It enbodies and
conveys strengh and character.
It is a source of pride
and great satisfaction.
The name makes him taller, bolder.
There is so much in a name,
that name in particular.
“Vinny,” his mother shouts,
“Vincenzo Balducci, come down here
nd take the trash out, your chores
come first around here young man.
He is not at all fond
of the name Vincenzo.
My grandmother speaks to me
from time to time, in a voice that sounds
remarkably like my own, but the dead
borrow voices, it is so much easier
than exercising their own, and there
is so little need for words once they leave.
She hasn’t changed all that much,
still opinionated, still ready to have at it
with my mother, who strangely
doesn’t visit, doesn’t speak now
in any voice, but that may be
because the more recently departed
assume we remember what
they needed to say, and said
repeatedly before they died.
My grandmother still tells me
to carefully consider my actions,
to never confuse right and simple,
to remember her and never, ever
give another thought to Jack,
the bastard third husband
and the only one she ever dumped.
If you find an orphan
do you take him as your own.
Do you feed and shelter him
and offer him your name.
Does he sit at your side
in silent meditation.
Do you willingly accept
the scorn of your neighbors
for your bastard child?
If his mother later comes,
will you part with him
and call him by his new name.
If you yield him freely
to his parent, he may
as your shadow.
Reflection on parable 3 of the Shaseki-shu (Sand and Pebbles)