You sneaked away one night. You were there, but while sleep claimed me, you were gone without notice or warning. Where should I look for you? In these barren hills where the spirits of the first nations roam, looking for their ancestral land?
Where should I look for you? Wandering these verdant fields where a hundred generations have been sacrificed to the will of power mad men who know no satisfaction?
Where should I look for you? In these filth ridden streets and narrow alleys where the rats scamper in search of a meal, where a child at play would be a fine repast?
Where should I look for you? Across these wind blown sands where brother has hunted brother for three generations, each laying God’s claim to the birthright of the other while wives and mothers wail in mourning?
First published in The Right to Depart, Plainview Press (2008)
My sister only wanted a horse an my parents thought they could solve that dilemma with a pony at her fifth birthday party where she would get all the extra rides, her friends and playmates be damned. Like most great parental plans, this one was doomed to failure, and failure marched front and center as they learned from the pony was loaded back into the trailer and my sister tried to tie herself to the trailer with ribbon from her gift wrap. She was never good with knots, even when she died at 52, the cancer having ravaged her one organ at a time, but even in her waning days, she whine to our mother that all she ever wanted was a horse, then winked at me, staring around her hospital room, since we both knew there was a pony in there somewhere.
Oddly I have a photo of my grandmother’s grave, but not one of my mothers, either of them actually, and we’ve yet to have a funeral for the one who raised me. I forgive the one who gave me life, for she gave me to one she felt could care for me well and she slipped away into death before I found out her name. I do have a college yearbook photo of her, and that will have to do every day, and especially on Sunday when she will have been lying in the soil of West Virginia for sixteen years, and I will be mourning her passing for four.
They come to her in the dark the voices whisper, she hears them from behind half lidded eyes they sound like the children that once ran across the open field chasing the ball, a too slow bird a mortar shell whose fall outpaced them all, left them scattered, shattered, marked by simple wooden crosses that were taken for heat.
She strains to answer them the words thick on her tongue clogging her mouth like a gas soaked rag stuck into the thin neck of a bottle, lit, they explode inside her mind, the shrapnel tearing at her eyes red, only red, the sky seems aflame yet the sun has long since set behind the smoke of the fires.
They hover around her gently touching her cheek like a demented butterfly seeking nectar long dry she caresses the thick scar were her breast once stood proudly, but there is no feeling only numbness of too many bodies strewn on tables, across chairs which are broken to feed the flames which dance away into the snowy night.
She can see their masks hiding sneering lips spitting vitriol for what once was she curses them, faceless her eyes pressed shut by their tiny fingers, kneading the soft dough, pulling it taught, letting it snap back released by the sated mouth of the devil child who runs laughing up the hill chasing a dragonfly into the dawn.