We sat defiant in the garden of red flags for years. On a good day we might call such signs devotion. On bad days, science, or something like it, gone rogue. I couldn’t interest a single person in the luxury of memory, such as what it was like to weigh our words with care, as we used to on Sundays. Everything became a surrogate for experience. What I knew was that the first tear that comes rolling from the right eye would signal happiness; the left eye, pain. Out of both, frustration. My mother, forever the tectonic node between an imperative and a wish, told me to give it up for world peace. It didn’t sound like love. It sounded like advice with the rough and frilly edge of caution. A lip bit until it bleeds.
We watch misery from a distance. On which day and at which hour can we still enjoy a pure moment? The shell game of existence goes like this: Here, no here, not now.
And sometimes: never, not ever, not in our lifetime.
There are some women who will still wear a red dress as they dust the strategically placed sacred images that adorn their tenuous house of cards. It would be hard not to admire such alacrity. In fact, I do. When reality makes its cameo appearance, we should know enough to greet it with caution. Ready the coffee pot, cover the fig tree, and apply one more coat of lipstick. Wait for its inevitable return and a longer stay. It will be important to focus our wayward attention on one beautiful thing per day. It will be obligatory to try to understand, when memory deserts us, that we still have the sun, in our shared and beleaguered skies, even though it is sometimes as pale as a lemon that knows its inevitable and inexorable fate.
Michelle Reale is the author of several poetry collections, including Season of Subtraction (Bordighera Press, 2019) and Blood Memory (Idea Press, 2021) and Confini: Poems of Refugees in Sicily (Cervena Barva Press, 2022). She is the Founding and Managing Editor for both OVUNQUE SIAMO: New Italian-American Writing and The Red Fern Review.