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In Galicia an elephant scratches the ear of a flea,
and pigs wallow in broken clouds. In Galicia
I smear my face with the juice of celandine stalks
and climb a tree, surveying the rubble.
In Galicia water swirls and swirls.
Horsemen swing their angry torches.
Couches are filled with dung. The forest of diamonds flickers.
In Galicia I wrestle a rooster for the right to the bones.
In Galicia, three heavy white horses drink tea without me.
Rain flies sideways, feathers drifting over an empty bed.
In Galicia a crow caws over the rooftops.
In Galicia, my grandmother kisses me on the forehead,
twisting the dough for her famous knishes.
My grandfather leans closer to the Talmud, squinting his eyes.
In Galicia the piano benches are hopping while the count prays for rain.
and saints bath their decapitated heads,
before robbing the tombs buried in the walls.
In Galicia I bake bread for the empress, who honors me with a ruby.
I hum to the earth where my ancestors lie. Hair grows
on the graves. Flies swarm my head.
In Galicia I ride against the Cossacks, waving my saber.
In Galicia I strike a match and fire rises to the sky.
In Galicia the pogrom starts at midnight.
Roses bloom under the moon.
The muddy river blasts white rock.
In Galicia I sleep in a coffin, and the crow
smells the flames long before they are burning.
My mother's people came from St. Louis
and before that, from Galicia,
but my father had no people.
He came from a silent village drifting in ash.
He came from an empty barn.
He came from a nest of blue eggs,
from a hillside of tired cows, from a yard
where chickens scratched out a living.
He dreamed a family of crows.
He dreamed a sky full of roads.
He dreamed a wedding in the pines.
He dreamed his pockets stuffed with twenties.
He dreamed a gray silk suit
and black wingtips whose polish wouldn't scuff.
He dreamed a brown fedora bobbing in the blue light.
He dreamed a new set of hard luggage.
He dreamed a Cadillac with bright wings
and the bugles that would announce his arrival.
He dreamed a red highway.
He dreamed his last breath.
He called himself a bad penny,
the smoke in a blind eye.
He dreamed a sales pitch
that would never fail.
It’s nice to remember the houses
floating on water. It’s nice
to stand on shore and sing
a hymn of praise
while candles burn
in the windows.
It’s nice to dream the loaves
rising in ovens
and the floors dusted with flour,
the women with beautiful
hair falling like cities
into darkness, the long
nights of love. It’s nice to
pretend we could have saved them.
It’s nice to say a few
words as spring turns to fall,
as fall turns to winter, and winter to spring.
It’s nice to return again
and stare at the stars
so bright and forgettable.
It’s nice to remember laughter
spilling into the wind,
roses sprouting from their fleshy mouths
as children fall down
and down into the dirt.
It’s nice to remember the voices
calling for you, calling
back the curtains, calling
through the long sleeves, the hollow places.
It’s nice to remember the feast
of speckled blackbirds
huddled on the rims
of roofs, the stars
drawn in ash on the doorways,
the lament of uncles —
the long dance that kicked
up the dust and crinkled leaves,
the bodies waiting to burn,
the ash drifting on water.
|© Copyright Jeff Friedman|