“Earthquake,” “Reflection” and “What Remains”

In Issue 61 by Linda Laderman

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Photo by Rudmer Zwerver on Shutterstock

Earthquake

Flying home from Seattle,

A man behind me mentions

The 2011 Christchurch earthquake.

I turn to see if it is you. A crazy thought.

Why would you be here?

Fifteen years since I heard your voice.

Still, I recall its timbre.

When you talked it sounded as if

You had a mouthful of stones.

I imagine what I would say today if we spoke.

Sid, I am sorry it ended like it did 

Remember when we drank 

Pinot from Misha’s Vineyard 

on the paved brick square near 

Christ Church Cathedral 

and marveled how the church’s spires 

spiked through the overcast New Zealand sky? 

The news said the earthquake destroyed everything 

Last night, I thought about the night

before we left for Christchurch.

I slept alone in your basement.

On the couch with blue tufted slipcovers.

You showed me a safe flush with cash.

For emergencies, you said.

What was your emergency?

Above the television, your rifle collection.

Next to your green ribboned uniform,

A commendation boasted your bravery.

At twilight you locked down the house,

A combatant ready for a nightly battle

With Absolut.

I knew I should disappear,

But my desire to see New Zealand

Outweighed my desire for safety.

I unpack and pack again.

A 17-hour flight. My first time

In first class. You drank and slept.

I didn’t want to wake you.

The flight attendant, a small-boned blond woman,

Asks, would your father like something to eat? 

Loud enough for her to hear, I answer,

He’s not my father 

She shoots me an oh honey I get why you’re with him, look.

Our driver drives us to a five-star hotel.

One king-size bed. I claim my side,

And coil my body into a ball.

Thick drapes shut out time.

Tomorrow, a free day for you

So, we rent a car and travel past

Rows of white clapboard houses,

Small and square, like gift wrapped boxes.

Flower gardens face front, toys litter a few lawns.

Most of the day you search for wineries,

And find one named Man of War.

Later, sitting in Cathedral square

We toast to the venerable old church.

No one foresaw its vulnerability.

The next day I am on my own.

I hike Middle Earth, half expecting

to see a Hobbit. A tourist touring a trilogy.

Then I call a car, write a note,

grab my bags, book a flight back, disappear.

This morning, as I sat in front of my computer

Searching your name, your obituary surfaced.

A four-page listing of awards, accolades, achievements.

I thought about your list of lamentations–

Multiple marriages, children in crises, residual resentments.

That night in New Haven, a few months into our thing,

At a campus event, I lifted you from the floor,

Took you home, tucked you in, hid the vodka.

You need help, I told you.

What do you suggest I do, you said?

Did you expect an answer? I had none.

Yet I flew with you across the world.

Rushing into the storm, escaping its aftermath.

Reflection

We are wounded, a nation afraid

of its reflection, splintered

into shards, scattered

among ruins, stained icons standing

in plain sight, legacies of decay.

We are pardoners, indulgers, climate

deniers, conduits for white hot anger,

unmarked cars, carrying hooded strangers

probable cause, probably not

We are evangelists, original sinners

Good religious people,

Hymn of the Pearl, we believe

in Liberty, zippers down

Amorality, repentance, comeuppance

We believe in guns, gates,

walls to protect us

from those who forgive us

our trespasses

as we would not forgive theirs

What Remains

A yellow flannel shirt  dangles on a hook

Boxed brown loafers  more than you’d ever spent

I cajoled you to buy three pairs

A courtly blue pinstripe suit  donate or keep

Black suspenders  still buttoned at the waist

You said it was your lucky suit

A red dog-walking jacket  feels heavy folded in my arms

Eyeglasses  left askew on a frosted glass desk

Solitaire frozen on your computer

Cards tucked into a pocket  the hand you drew

Foragers stop  pick through rummage lying on the curb

A menu of leftovers

I watch from a window  a white pick-up brakes

Circles back  two men jump out take a splintered shelf

I keep what remains

About the Author

Linda Laderman

Linda Laderman is a Detroit writer and poet. She began writing poetry just before her 70th birthday. Her stories, poetry, and essays have appeared in literary journals, magazines and media outlets. She has work forthcoming this spring in The Scapegoat Review and Beyond Words Literary Magazine. She volunteers her time as a docent at the Holocaust Center in Farmington Hills, Michigan, where she leads adult discussion tours.