Saturday, November 1, 2014

Christina Pacosz

Depth of Field

A cement porch with a vinyl-cushioned metal glider and posts with diagonally cut wood
slats for decoration. There are several arborvitae clustered around the porch, green
against white paint.  The temporal address:  7420 Piedmont Street, Detroit, Michigan.

An indeterminate year.  An unknown season. 

Tony is standing behind Sophia who is sitting on the green glider holding the tiny Christmas 1944 baby. Walter is seated beside her.  Everyone is just as they had been when they died.  Tony has a Marine buzz cut, mud on his camouflage fatigues from some unnamed jungle in Vietnam. And blood. The insignia of his rank did not stop the bullets.  Sophia and Walter are wizened apple dolls.  She died of a fast-growing cancer and he was killed in a house fire. The baby in Sophia’s withered lap has a blue face because of the umbilical cord that had been wrapped around his neck when he was born dead into a
world at war.

Richard Walter is sitting on the cement steps. Doreen Marie is next to him. Brother and sister.  He died alone from a stroke or a heart attack, who knows? She died of an overdose of prescription methadone. Each of them is too young to die but they are dead just the same.  Like Tony and the baby. Like Sophia and Walter, both in their early seventies.  Too soon to say goodbye.

Fred Brown is there by the door, grinning his signature big grin.  He is not in the bits and pieces, what was left of him after he was murdered, but the young man he’d been, only a week or so from his seventeenth birthday, just before he is killed.  Buried on his birthday like it was a present or a surprise wake someone had given him.  He is African-American and some might argue, not a member of this family, on this porch in the Polack working class ghetto where everyone else came from. 

Since this is a portrait of my beloved dead, Fred is most definitely among them.  He is saying out loud to anyone who will listen, “Christina isn’t white, she’s Polish.” My mother smiles her crooked smile and my dad barks a laugh like he knows a lot more about something but he isn’t telling.  Richard and Doreen invite Fred to sit down on the steps with them.  The Christmas Baby is happy to be with everyone at last.

The shutter snaps – this is not a digital phone dammit but a real camera – and I shoot picture after picture convinced that the light is exactly right, the moment too good to be true.

Like stepping into the same river twice – not the River Styx but another river - Missouri Vistula  San  Ganges  Danube  Tigris   Euphrates    Yukon    Orinoco  Amazon   Nile Mississippi   Detroit - these beloved dead aren’t easily gathered again.

Ghosts and Gnosis

                                                                                                            “She knew the world was a stallion
rolling in the blue pasture of       
She knew that God tore down the old
world every evening and built a new one
by sun up.
              Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes 
              Were Watching God

               Some green thing did root,
               for here we are,
               mother and daughter,
               walking the hills this hot afternoon,
               exploring the back roads
               of our confused love.
               Like animals
               in the uneasy hours
               before an earthquake,
               we sense tremors and seek

               escape, unable to bear
               the silence pressing down
               on us before the earth
               splits open.
               Away from the trailer and its air
               thick with defeat, I am like a prisoner
               too long behind locked doors.
               Out here corn grows twelve feet
               under a tall sky.
               She doesn’t sense, can’t smell

               what she moves through
               and resents my joy, the small pleasures
               under blue sky:
               Hummingbirds drilling the stillness
               and the clay beneath our feet.
               A halfmile and we come to gravel,
               green trees and fern, cooler air
               with a scent of water.
               Mamie’s cabin is to our left,
               timbers rotting in the damp.
               I shout, “Hey!” to an empty clearing,
               determined to show the stranger
               at my side the proper way
               to greet a ghost.
               An oriole flashes orange in the glade.
               I step through the front door,
               joke about iced tea, fresh lemonade.
               I sniff for remnants of a human welcome.
               Little lingers. The cabin is full of
               the usual rubble, crumbled mortar,

               bricks hugging corners,
               last year’s oak leaves,
               raspy underfoot.
               I wish we could arrive,
               sip drinks cooled with ice
               chipped from huge blocks.
               We would share easy conversation,
               watch dusk move through the trees
               and fireflies clarify what is
               luminous from the liquid night.

“Ghost and Gnosis,” Seattle Arts Commission award winner, 1984.

                                  Deer in the Dark

Between Halloween
and Dia de los Muertos
the light is gone

Only the telltale crackle
of fallen leaves

Followed by a flash
of white
ghostly flag
in the sumac

moving away
                                                from us     

© Christina Pacosz


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