Note: My mother, who died in 2016, would have been 101 this month. Her ashes are buried in the woods in the Berkshires, a place she loved and visited many times. Sometimes she rises and sits by my side, telling me about her best friend or her mad sister or the brother-in-law she hated with a passion that burned as hot as it had nearly 70 years earlier. Here’s one for the March theme and three for my mom:
Rain bashes the earth, worms
struggle their wriggling
way up through mud. No one
can prevent this, only be aligned
in the proper direction...face
down, ear to the wet ground,
humble and attentive
to the last. That's what
praying means, only that:
no requests, even on behalf
of others, no complaints,
only silence, only listening
for the faint movements
of worms beneath the soaked
surface, feeling the sharp
cold drops on a body
made of earth, listening
with a heart made warm by earth.
The Muses Gallery 1/16
Two Women in a Diner
They hold menus, discuss which meal they should split.
They were here long ago and have returned from the land of the dead.
One has hair dyed the color of flame.
Her face flickers in artificial light, and bones protrude from her collar,
her satiny sleeves.
She wants soup, but that’s hard to share.
Her friend twists her wedding ring around her finger.
Her face has wrinkled into shadow and mist.
She is hoping for grilled cheese but stares hard at the blintzes.
Outside the rain is changing to snow.
Big, wet flakes fall against the window.
The wind has picked up, but inside it is warm and smells of coffee
and chili stewing in a big pot.
The radio plays an aria, and the two sing along, with voices that sound like glass
breaking in an empty dumpster on a windy day.
The waitress calls them honey,
takes their order - a grilled cheese cut in two, a bowl of tomato soup
doled out in two cups. Ice water they won’t drink, coffee with sugar and cream.
As night falls, their voices scratch at the walls, repeating old news,
snatches of advice, and warnings about the many dangers of this uncozy world.
In the Worker’s Paradise
My aunt worked in a factory, carrying heavy bales across
her back. At night, she dreamt of a Worker’s Paradise,
a park with a pond for swans. Small children ringed
the water, tossing pieces of bread to the birds.
Music played from a carousel. There was a small zoo
frequented by lovers, who held hands but rarely kissed,
and older couples in gray coats. They looked at monkeys
in their pungent cages. They smiled and poked each other.
“Look!” they cried, as monkeys swung on their high bars,
or chased each other over artificial trees. They feasted on
carnival food, sticky and sweet, and when it drizzled,
drops fell equally on young and old. Women covered
their hair with hands callused from work, and everyone’s
boots were smeared with the collective mud of the Fatherland.
In the morning, she drank gin in her coffee, thinking about
quotas and the Workers’ Council goals. My mother thought
she was crazy, and dreamt her own dreams about an ocean
and smooth, white sand. In those dreams, my mad aunt
became a seagull, diving for fish or trash. Her wings flashed
in the sun, as my mother burned on the beach, mindful only
of warmth on her pale skin. They passed through the house,
each in her own phantom body. When they laughed,
windows rattled, and dogs next door howled until neighbors
hushed them with curses, kibble, and familiar songs.
“I’m going to my uncle the dog
The croupier the old horror
The one who takes me as I am”
-W. S. Merwin
Uncle, with diamonds
sewn into your chest, old
horror, who crossed
the border, where
did you bury your wife?
Did you recall,
in that night of no stars,
where the child had gone?
Another dog, snuffling
at the grave.
You left her destitute,
with a rope and a knife,
a gambler’s name
dangling from her hair.
She lay on the pier
when the ship sailed
and your voice
transformed into silk.
Did you leave your old
with fishing nets and filth?
And then who owned
your ears, your mouth?
When we met at the bar,
you took me as I am,
and we drank until our
eyes blurred. Then we ate
on the street as wind
sailed through our hair.
You looked thin,
younger than your years,
crafty hands steady and hard.
We stumbled down
the street, arm in arm,
almost like brothers,
singing our German songs.
© 2018 Steve Klepetar
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