Thursday, April 12, 2012


photoart: ralph murre

by Charles P. Ries

My grandfather often told us that on the day of his birth they put him
in the corner to die when he, the weaker of two scrawny twins,
came into the world. “But I didn’t die. Here I am,” he laughed.
His brother died a few days later. Funny how death works.

Shortly after my father died, my mother announced that she would soon
be passing, and eleven months later with a slight smile on her lips, she
released her final worry and said good-bye. Death was not in the room.
My mother didn’t believe in death.

At middle age I stand tonight on the field where we played 10,000 soft ball
games as children. Where I called my brother the longest litany of swear
words my ten year old mouth could spit out. I am standing here looking at
the sky trying to remember something.

Maybe stars are the souls of the glimmering dead, or perhaps meteors are
the tear drops of souls soon to be returned. Souls like me who dread their
plunge back into life’s unpredictable sea.

But tonight I mainly think of my grandfather Peter. Who at 94 could laugh
about the day he chased death from his door. He didn’t believe in death.
He died sweetly with a smile on his lips just as my mother did.

As a small boy, I sit under the Elm tree that spreads protecting arms over
my grandparents’ cream city brick home. I watch my grandmother as
she cleans her attic. Hurling, tossing the accumulated treasures
of a life time out the garret window high above me. Beneath her,
and before me, rise a pile of memories, treasure and heartache.

“I’m cleaning up. Clearing out. Getting ready to leave,” she says, in that
succinct way she spoke about everything important. “For what?” I wondered,
until eight months later she died.

Someday it will be my turn to die, and when it is, I will laugh, clean my attic,
and cast away my last worry. I will await release into an ocean of night where
stars hang suspended from the branches of a massive Elm tree and souls
who’ve returned home swing for eternity, shedding tears for the living.

~ first published in Free Verse