AN AMERICAN WAKE
In the dim room, sidelight shadows blur the straight-back settees along drab walls. Seated on a sofa across from the open casket, she’s securely wedged between Grandma and her brother. Voices syphon across still space: Gone too soon, a marvelous fella, great family man. She tugs her brother’s sleeve, and whispers, I thought they used to not like him?
The child across from her, folds into his mother’s side. He stares as though they are comrades, marooned for a short time in this foreign land, by customs and places neither of them will ever know, where sepulchers remain open for three days, as onlookers like sentinels, watch for signs of life. From there it takes three-months to elude the ocean’s treachery, as one grown child at a time waves goodbye to family, who are assembled like tiny figurines along the dock. Two to three years apart, one son leaves, as the other returns with valiant tales of Passage, that is, stories manufactured for the sake of the listeners, watered down, unlike the waves that relentlessly ravage the shore.
The weight of it all, truth or fabrication, belongs to everyone, especially bystanders who enjoy the blarney. Speakers, the young men already weathered, worn down, and passed-by, before they’d time to admire the large elliptical leaf of the Wych elm. They’d shunned the quietude it took to await the tawny owl, the nuthatch, gannet or tern that dart along the coast. Fresh out of their youth, they’d already dismissed the columbine and the fuchsia, that brightens the landscape at dusk. Instead, they came to resemble the endangered sessile oak, that sloughs its layers of scale and scab, but somehow, still exudes a faint, spicy-sweet pungency, as its leaves shudder and fall.
Jean Cassidy December, 2023