Provenance

“Picture of Dorian Gray” by Ivan Le Lorraine Albright,

His car belonged to a Nazi.
Not a would be,
Or wannabe,
Or could have been,
Or clone,
But a Nazi high in rank,
A name you’d know,
And I forgot
The minute he smiled and said it.

He keeps it under wraps in his garage
To shield it from harsh winters,
Hungry salt;
But brings it out when sunlight burns
Each Independence Day,
To drive in the parade.
Crowds wave and sweat,
And he waves back,
Honking,
Drowned out by marching bands.

Afterward, he parks it by his house,
And beams as neighbor’s children
Ooh and ah,
And beg to climb inside.
He doesn’t balk, but
Makes them wash their hands
Of sticky cream,
And cheesy dust,
With disinfectant wipes.
He is insistent on this step,
Of course,
To keep the car pristine,
Interior unstained—
As if it could.

©2019 All Rights Reserved

Salt and Pepper

SaltPepper

I remember where I was on September 11th, 2001. We’d come back from a wonderful visit with family in California barely a week before. I was still in its afterglow, as I was still in the long afterglow of four months in Budapest.

Fall was approaching, my favorite time of year. It was a beautiful, mild, sunny Midwest morning. I was relaxed. I was happy.

I came downstairs early, made my breakfast, sat on the sofa in the living room, and turned on the news to see smoke billowing out of the first tower and gawked in disbelief. A few minutes later, the phone rang.

Mom.

New York.

Are you watching? Did you see it?  Her voice cracked. It always cracked. This time was worse.

Yes. I recognized the same crack in mine.

And we watched together, a thousand miles apart, as the second tower was struck, and gasped, together.

My mother didn’t cry much; but she cried that morning.

***

My husband rose about thirty minutes later.

The minute I heard him padding about, I rushed upstairs.

He took one look at me and knew something was wrong.

I think I told him to come down, eked out a few words about the towers, but I don’t remember what I said, exactly. I do know he didn’t linger on the second floor, checking his email, stretching, as he usually does. And I know that when he saw the screen, his face was a mirror of mine—tear-stained, stricken.

I tried to call my mother back, but the lines had gone down by then, so I sent emails to family and friends in New York, hoping they would be received, praying for one answer: We’re all right. We’re safe.

***

Later that afternoon, our spirits numbed by images of burning buildings and planes, we trod off to the grocery store—to replenish staples, get out, breathe.

Everywhere we walked, we saw our shock and grief reflected—in other cars, the parking lot, aisles, checkout counters. No one spoke much. No one smiled. People just shook their heads, sniffled, and sighed.

***

After dinner, my husband gave me a small package wrapped in newsprint, tied with a string.

I bought this for you a while ago, and was going to give it to you for Christmas; but I think you need it now.

Inside the wrapping were the milk glass salt and pepper shakers pictured above.

I know how much you love milk glass.

***

They are a fixture in my kitchen, those shakers, and have been since 9/11, a constant reminder of what preserves, and what burns— salt and pepper.

Both are filled with salt.

©2018 All Rights Reserved

 

 

bubble universe

Screen Shot 2018-01-14 at 1.59.50 PM

A bubble would be nice, don’t you think?

With the current flu epidemic, it would be really nice. I could wrap myself up, knowing I’d be safe from airborne microbes just waiting to invade my throat and lungs, and venture out into the world without a care.

Of course, the bubble would have to be flexible, so that I could maneuver comfortably, and sheathe my fingers while still allowing them to pick the best fruits and vegetables from the bins. And the best bubbles would be heated, and have smart phone technology built in….

Or, maybe that’s asking too much.

~~~

In the past couple of days, I’ve been hearing this repeatedly:  “We can’t know what’s in his heart.”

Really?

It’s not difficult to know what’s in someone’s heart.

For example:

If you receive a letter of introduction from a large company saying they have acquired the company where you work, and want to assure a smooth transition, but also want you to reapply for your job, can you know what’s in your new employers’ hearts regarding your job security?

If your teachers say they do not accept late papers, can you know what’s in their hearts when they scowl and refuse to take the late papers you offer?

And if an acquaintance says she doesn’t want to talk to you anymore, then hangs up on you if you call, can you know how she feels about you?

~~~

It doesn’t take much to know what’s in people’s hearts when they demonstrate it through word and deed.

Think of it as an equation:  LANGUAGE + ACTION/EVIDENCE = POSITION

So:

—new bosses wanting smooth transition + required job reapplication = they’re not keeping everyone;

—no late paper policy + glowering while refusing a late paper = disdain for students who think they’re above the rules;

and

—saying “Don’t call me” + hanging up = “I don’t want you in my life. Go away.”

~~~

It feels so straightforward —

LANGUAGE + ACTION/EVIDENCE = POSITION

— that one would have to be living in some kind of grotesque bubble to continue rationalizing away what is so patently clear, asserting what is contrary to the facts when doing so offers no convenience, no protection, no security.

It boggles….

…unless the alternate world within that bubble is preferable to facing the truth outside it, or the inhabitant feels more at home inside all that ugliness.

©2018 All Rights Reserved