by Linda Parsons
In the boulevard before crossing to the front steps, I’m stopped in my tracks and breath. On the porch—the wicker loveseat once your aunt’s, blue shirt, beard newly trimmed—I see you clear as day. There, just as you sat so often in our younger years waiting for my return. Then, not there. The seer I consulted said you were saying goodbye, you want my forgiveness. Twenty years ago, your birthday trip to Ireland, the tour guide let us off the bus and we stood on the peat bog, undulating like a gentle sea. These glacial moraines filled through the ice and bronze ages, birchwoods and heather engulfed, until the fen solidified to turf, cut eons later to heat thatched cottages of the barren west. Celts hammered gold for their gods, made offerings to the lakebottom, alive with the dead and the holy. It’s said they sacrificed their kings, bog bodies unearthed by treasure hunters with coins, carved rings, ribbon torcs. What is forgiveness but bowing to the gods of time on this shaky earth our feet and lives once shared? What of our aging dreams, so easily discarded—does sleep spin me out on a silver cord to visit you? What of this waking vision I turn in hand and heart, mystified of treasure or meaning? There, just as we rose and fell on the peat formed, body upon body, in the blink of millennia. Then, not there.
My first night en la Habana, the 1950s hotel built by American mobster Meyer Lansky as a casino before Fidel and Che brought in the big guns, by and for the people, la Revolución. The Riviera’s swank staircases, Sputnik lines, a marvel in its day. But the lights flicker, the elevator, sometimes dark, stops five inches above or below the floor, the tap icy or mad hot. Cuba in elegant decay, its glorious contradictions. My room overlooks The Malecón’s lovely hook, esplanade and seawall called Havana’s front porch on the Atlantic, barely a sneeze from Miami. I’ve cast the silk of myself beyond touching bottom—Deep France, California’s central coast, now this Caribbean jewel caught in time’s sway. Each a pilgrimage to peeling old layers, to the practice of wonder, circling back to the home of self. Tonight I dream a presence no longer in my life. He is in a wheelchair. He stands on his own, kisses my cheek three times, sits again. In our years apart, I travel to rise and walk again, toss away my crutches—to not hurl Judas! at his leaving. Yet I am left with those three coins, the past standing on its own two feet. Left with the feel of flesh on my cheek in rooms once taken by force, the shaken fists of change. The Gulf the same now as then, brilliant as topaz sewn into the hems of those making for the Straits of Florida, rowing for their lives.
Poet, playwright, and editor, LINDA PARSONS is the poetry editor for Madville Publishing and reviews editor for Pine Mountain Sand & Gravel. She is copy editor for Chapter 16, the literary website of Humanities Tennessee. Linda is published in such journals as The Georgia Review, Iowa Review, Prairie Schooner, Southern Poetry Review, The Chattahoochee Review, and Shenandoah. Her fifth poetry collection is Candescent (Iris Press, 2019).
Photo: “Kirkconnel Flow” by James Johnstone