Poetry

Sucked Into the Tomb of the Amiable Child

I am that child.

My head cracked open bleeding out the last of my amiability, tumbling into the Hudson with the porpoises and whales.

Years spent begging for martyrdom could not yield such an honor, stalwart through the ages, ignored by all but the knowing.

I am that child.

I’m the youngest of five siblings, three boys and two girls. I have no choice. I’m amiable.

I know slaves as workers, kindly people. I don’t live long enough to know better. My father boasts about the time he rowed to market down the island, and he spots George Washington emerging from his townhouse on Cherry Street, his slaves clean and dressed in finery, the fabric of imprisonment.

George accompanies my father to his favorite garden and graciously offers turnip seeds that mother turns into the most delicious dish, made magnificent by its origin. You’re feasting on the bounty of the father of this young nation, father boasts. We eat with gusto and are blessed.

I love the rich neighbor, my uncle but not really, a spindly Dutchman with rotting teeth and a nose like a limp carrot. Sixty acres, all mine, the first thing he says to me, and then You go play. I skip off with Claude, his only son, through the forest and the splashy wetland where the beavers stop up.

I am that child, unbridled in my amiability, free flowing, curious, comforted, loved, in a wonderland called Manahatta, following Claude blindly north to the Van Der Donck Meadows, with the geese cackling so loud we could hardly hear each other.

Claude wants to fly like the eagles and the falcons and the sparrow hawks. Claude is an ornithologist, that’s how he describes himself, a six-year-old genius. Claude memorizes the names of the most common birds, and he is determined to get them all, hundreds of them. On the way home he grabs a stray pigeon and wrings its neck, an offering to his mother for dinner.

My father and mother love me. I feel that all the time. I want to please them. I’m obedient, whatever it takes to maintain that love. My brothers and sisters love me. I’m the family pet, my mother’s favorite. I see a whole full, beautiful life before me. Hot summer days never end, sparked by the 4th of July celebration of this young nation.

I could be glib and say you were spared a life of the three ds – disillusionment, disappointment, and despair. And the fourth d – death, a fair price to escape the fate of the living.

You were sacrificed so I could live this moment in the tomb, with you, a flash of bodhicitta. Two hundred and twenty-five years between us can’t dissolve the antiquity of this feeling preserved in marble.

The New York Times https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/06/02/magazine/new-york-stories-an-amiable-child.html