The old men in the old country
die with unannounced poison in their bones
cheeks turning red to black,
far past rosy vodka friendliness
whispered slurs of slipping away
wrapped in the same white sheets they were born on
surrounded by ancient grandmother pillars of pillows
soon to be buried next to all previous generations
under neon-colored plastic flowers
and broken china cups of rain water to eternally sip
worn out weary legs bent under hay-making shoulders
rheumy watery eyes and lotion-less skin
big belly gut heaving from the lung stress
sitting splayed on the one one person-sized mattress
thinking of his father
thinking of me
thinking of nothing
semi-encircled by the entire village family
throwing arms in the air clutching vodka swallows;
nothing much is different on this his last day.
He was singing and lovely and every time he got close enough to the mass of people they rushed forward in a sudden attempt to touch him.
Hands reached up like they were stretching for the very last hanging apple in a starving world. But they weren’t really starving. Or were they? They didn’t know why they wanted to touch him. Or maybe they did.
The crowd surged forward in front of me, but I stood still in my tiny concert space, my hand still raised and waving in the air. The eight feet between me and the front of the stage, once spread thick with people, suddenly emptied; the twelve or fourteen inches at the front, the “front row”, suddenly full of all of those bodies who had once taken up much more space. Had needed more space. Had been people dancing and waving their arms. Not hungry apple grabbers. Not humans stretching for something they couldn’t quite reach.
I understood what was happening. I was a part of it too, am a part of it, I won’t pretend not to be. If anyone else had spit water into the crowd, a drop of it landing on my forehead like holy water, well, I wouldn’t be referring to it as holy water, now would I?
I’ve seen this so many times, I’ve experienced this so often, but I still go back. I still put myself in crowds of hungry people. I still am them.
“I touched him!” someone squeals after the wave of people returns to resting position. They grin, eyes wild, laughing at their own excitement, unsure.
Religion will always exist, even after all the gods are killed by man. Putting people on pedestals, whether or not they deserve it, whether or not anyone can ever deserve it, will always happen.
It’s ok, it’s fine. Isn’t it?