The Green Christs

I follow my great-grandfather.
He can barely walk and he can barely talk.
He is two years old.

His brother Eugène is already six. Eugène will stay here
in Belgium, and my great-grandfather will marry
a woman in Chicago whose mother wears a mantilla
before the fire in the parlor as horses clop
past toward Halsted Street.

My great-grandfather carries a soiled green bear
whose name is Lala.
The little bear’s red jacket is very red and brocaded.

Eugene and his wife are buried next to the tomb
of his parents. Their names and dates are faint,
and the Christs have turned green.
Where the sun was an egg yolk and now peach, nine
sheep, one donkey and a rooster rehearse for Christmas
eve beneath an apple tree.
My great-grandfather, who last stood in this churchyard
in 1883, is buried alone
with his wife Flora near O’Hare Airport.
Only I know the graves now.

My great-grandfather and Lala stumble toward his mother.
She offers me half a plum from their garden and eats
the other half, then opens another.

She offers half to me and half to her son.
--Shake the tree, Richard, and the fruit which fall is ripe.
And always open a plum before tasting it.

Her fingers are stained and strong and fine. She could
play piano. A neighbor,
the soprano, begins to sing. My great-great-grandmother’s
eyes, sotto voce, focus separately upon the bluing
and swaying.
She has Ruth’s eyes, and she wears no jewelry.

Her last roses are old and big as breakfast bowls.
She plucks a petal between a tall burgundy door
and a tall burgundy window.
--You should have come earlier, then you would have seen them.
They were beautiful--and everywhere.

The Green Christs [#15]
© 2000 Fammerée

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Richard Fammerée

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“The Green Christs” appears in Lessons of Water & Thirst,
a book of poems by Richard Fammerée.

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