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
Children have an innate sense of their ancestry. I was a child of the city it’s streets my paths, always under the watchful eye of my warden – mother.
Dirt was to be avoided at all possible cost, so I never dug my hands into the fertile soil of my village in the heart of Lithuania, or tasted the readying harvest that dirt would remember.
I never stole a nip of poitin only the Manischewitz which, in our home, masqueraded as wine fit for drinking. It is only now in my second childhood that the ancestry very deep in my DNA has finally found purchase in my mind and soul.
You ask me to define what family is and I tell you that I may be the last person you want answering that question, I an adoptee who felt like an orphan supplanted by siblings who knew her womb.
But I do have an answer, family is that insane person who will drive six hours to spend an hour with you, family is the joy and aching of your heart as they leave, a bit of themselves remaining deeply within your soul.
Between Scylla and Charybdis they cower amidst the ruins fearful to look skyward lest they encourage the rains of hell.
Now and then they visit the corpses, hastily buried grief drowned by the sound of the laugh of the gunner peering down from the hills. It is always night for the soul and lookout must be kept for Charon, who rides silently along the rivers of blood, that flow through her streets.
In the great halls, far removed from the horror, self-professed wise men exchange maps lines randomly drawn, scythes slicing a people. They trade in lives as chattel, reaping a bitter harvest, praying there may only be but seven lean years.
They offer a sop to Cerberus, three villages straddling the river, but the army of the hills knows they will take that and more and waits patiently for the winter when the odor of sanctity no longer arises out of the city to assail their nostrils and Shadrach is no more than a ghost.
First Appeared in Living Poets (UK), Vol. 2, No. 1, 2000.
The first time I heard Mozart, I swore I was in a biblical garden and I was content to sit and listen for eternity. The serpent came along, as they do in such gardens, as I recall, with the face of Beethoven, though now I am convinced it was just Mahler trying to pass. I still stop and eat from the fruit of Mozart on occasion, but once the food was there for the taking, but now it has to be purchased, and even here you pay and never know until you bite into it just how fresh and juicy it might be. And lately, so much has been overpowering that I cannot digest it, and my growing deafness makes each purchase agonizing, even though I know if I went without, I wouldn’t starve, save for my soul.
Krevchinsky froze his ass off on the Siberian plain. The gray concrete box was traded for concrete gray skies, the whistle of the truncheon gives way to winter’s blasts. It was in many ways easier when the beatings came neatly marking the days dividing days between pain and exhaustion, all under the watchful eye of the meek incandescent sun dangling from the ceiling. In the camp day and night are reflections of an unseen clock, seasons slide from discontent to depression. The prison of the body is finite built block on block, the prison of the soul is vast, empty, dissipating life.
First appeared in HazMat Review, Vol. 1, No. 2 (1996) and later in Legal Studies Forum, Vol. 30, Nos. 1-2 (2006).