Elaine

My father was thirty eight when he died

I was barely seven

Mother took me to Spain to ease the pain

Help the healing and never forget

His death had crushed her heart

Part of mine too at the time

The soft white sand slipped through our toes

The cloudy night covered the stars

Transformed them into lost diamonds in the dark

My sunburnt skin itchy beneath my souvenir shirt

 

And then the rain came straight from the heavens

Her sad face and wet hair a sight I would never forget

I found a tiny shell and she held my hand

The castaway clasped between our palms

A momento mori of what was to come

For mother and son

 

For years after she would take me walking in the rain

Walking in the rain with Elaine we would sing

Just like the song

The tiny shiny shell always came too

Clutched between our dripping hands

Sometimes warm

Sometimes frozen

 

One day she tried to wake me from my teenage dreams

But I was growing tired of walking with Elaine in the rain

So she went on her own

And never returned

 

After searching for several days they found her body

She was bloated and floating face down in the local river

Partly wedged under a fallen tree

Somewhat hidden from public view

There was rumour it was murder

But I knew just how much her life had been blighted by grief

Since Dad had passed away exactly ten years before

 

We drove to the Chapel of Rest in Uncle Don’s white van

And there she was

All peaceful looking in her long wooden box

Her hands folded neatly across her chest

Like a sleeping martyr I guessed

I reached into my pocket and found the tiny shiny shell

I kissed it gently for a lingering moment and lovingly

 

Leaning over the coffin pushed it under her cold fingers

Safely wedged in the palm of her right hand

The hand that held mine when we went walking in the rain together

 

Here

Take this Mum, I whispered

And when you meet with Dad

Wherever that might be

Take a walk in the sunshine

And maybe think of me

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poetic dichotomy

I rescued a wasp from near certain death at my own hands
– an arbitrary spur of the moment act of compassion
which changed nothing other than my own perception of life
– saved me dealing with the murderous taste of contrition.

Henry Alberto was the eldest son of a family from El Salvador
– determined to finish school he refused to join the local gangs
but they came for him after his graduation and 18th birthday
– shot him dead in retribution all within the same ghastly week.

I could have swatted the wasp and left its body to whither
– annoying buzzing unpredictable stinging nuisance that it was
and besides, there will always be another to take its place
– this random act of killing is disturbingly too easy.

Luis Padillo was a Navy chaplain caught up in rebellious carnage
– as sniper bullets flew in Venezuela he tended to the dying
selflessly risking his own life to offer soldiers the last rites
– death is the choice of the devil in our subconscious.

I took a soft cloth and trapped the wasp against the window
– the power of the executioner, finger on the trigger,
resisting the urge to squeeze the living juices from its body
– hostage released on the whim of the freedom giver.

Henry Alberto’s mother cradles the photo of her dead son
– overwhelming grief consumes her troubled refugee existence.
Father Luis Padillo may or may not have ended his days in Florida
– I have no idea how we should end this deathly poetic dichotomy.

PicMonkey Collage2

(two images that came my way this week – The iconic Priest and the Dying Soldier by Héctor Rondón Lovera from 1962 / Henry Alberto photographed on his graduation day and held by his mother Juana, taken by Patrick Tombola for a Sunday Times magazine article about Central American migrants fleeing poverty and gang violence to Mexico and, with luck, America).