The past is colored in lavender fog whenever he tries to remember it.
He can see the bodies if he focuses,
but their clothes are faded,
the setting obscure,
his age uncertain.
When he tries to remember details, he finds
that he can imagine things having been many ways at once.
At one time, he imagined he was seven,
another, he was closer to thirteen.
He remembers it cold and dark,
or light and sweet smelling.
He remembers a wife,
a son who left and broke his heart.
He remembers parents dying that aren’t his own.
But only sometimes do these fantasies arise.
That’s what they had to be:
There are good memories, too.
Of a wedding, a garden, a birth.
but nice all the same.
He likes to pull the nice ones up when he feels especially alone.
But he has to be careful
when he starts pulling that string,
the bad ones come up instead.
A little girl learning to walk.
Her legs are bruised and crooked.
She should have been walking by then,
but her bones couldn’t keep balance.
She’s angry now. Face swollen and red.
She’s made a mess and it’s on purpose.
Mama’s sewing is thrown across the floor and torn apart.
Buttons have been ripped off of coats.
That’s not acceptable, Jania!
Just wait till Papa gets home!
She cries but she’s not sorry. She gets it from her father.
She’s been sent to her room without supper.
Papa comes upstairs and gives her the book he saved for her.
He’s too soft. He understands her too well to be cross.
There is an uncle from a very different time.
Clothes scratchy brown, single-piece fabric,
woven from thin straw.
He was selling mushrooms and
people got sick, but not until he and his earnings are long gone.
Blackness flashes behind his eyes.
The brightest blackness he has ever seen.
A hatred that gnaws in his stomach.
It stays only a moment
then sinks beneath his thoughts.
The voice of the lord’s son…
It wakes worms in his lungs.
He is no match for the flood that is Cyr Montomogen.
The worms crawl up his throat and into his mouth.
They taste like guilt.