The Great twenty-one

Gina, in one of our last bewildered days,
stood beside me at arm’s length
inside the bone-cracked shack we shared.

We watched that day finish
in a purl of pretty mauve.

We heard the timpani come from the open-windowed kitchens
of steam-plaited spoons upon handed-down soup bowls
and we waited for Mister Constantine’s late-day aria
over pots of strong coffee and plates of Papo Secos.

I shouted at the children who twined between the horses
but they pretended not to hear.

I knew Gina still mourned her old home —
when did she not tell me so?
She missed the distraction of mules dragging the streets behind them / dripping shirts and their duplicitous sleeves hanging from twine across every dirt yard / the young mothers who brushed the flies away from their babies’ eyes with soft folded handkerchiefs
and I could see them all as she spoke them to life.

Yes, those days, we remember those days,
each one of those days, one upon the other,
each with sunlight, each with its own sorrow,
but there is the kindness I recall, yes, but not all,
existing only in remembrance, I think,
only as a passing thing
and not as a thing of substance.

Gina stood with me when she was the great twenty-one
and I was twenty-five,
and we stood together that great year of 1918
when Mister Constantine’s boy brought us the news.

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