Since there was no mother for the peach tree we did it all alone, which made the two of us closer though closeness brought its loneliness, and it would have been better I think sometimes to be sterile from the start just to avoid the pain which in my life this far has lasted seventy years for I am in love with a skeleton on whose small bones a dress hung for a while, on whose small skull a bit of curly hair was strung, and what is dust I still don’t know since there was no mother to turn to then and ask what else was she wearing, did she have on shoes, and were the two trees from Georgia, and was it true somebody said the other peach should have died instead of her; and I could imagine the nose going first though forty years later the trees were still there and not as big as you’d think; and it was my cousin Red with the flabby lips who said it, he had red eyes, a red monstrosity, a flabby body, half the house was filled with male cousins, they were born in rooms a short distance from the rats, I can’t remember which ones had the accents nor what his Hebrew name was, nor his English.
“My Sister’s Funeral” is reprinted from Everything is Burning by Gerald Stern. Copyright © 2005 Gerald Stern. With permission of the publisher, W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.
Of all sixty of us I am the only one who went to the four corners though I don't say it out of pride but more like a type of regret, and I did it because there was no one I truly believed in though once when I climbed the hill in Skye and arrived at the rough tables I saw the only other elder who was a vegetarian--in Scotland-- and visited Orwell and rode a small motorcycle to get from place to place; and I immediately stopped eating fish and meat and lived on soups; and we wrote each other in the middle and late fifties though one day I got a letter from his daughter that he had died in an accident; he was I'm sure of it, an angel who flew in midair with one eternal gospel to proclaim to those inhabiting the earth and every nation; and now that I go through my papers every day I search and search for his letters but to my shame I have even forgotten his name, that messenger who came to me with tablespoons of blue lentils.
From American Sonnets by Gerald Stern. Copyright © 2002 by Gerald Stern. Used by permission of W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. All rights reserved.
How you loved to read in the snow and when your face turned to water from the internal heat combined with the heavy crystals or maybe it was reversus you went half-blind and your eyelashes turned to ice the time you walked through swirls with dirty tears not far from the rat-filled river or really a mile away—or two—in what you came to call the Aristotle room in a small hole outside the Carnegie library.
Copyright © 2010 by Gerald Stern. Used with permission of the author.