Erica Charis

Charles River

A mother’s tongue
forges sounds into syllables
blowing gently on the sparks
of recognition, traveling
from attentive ears to amazed eyes,
lighting the fresh kindling
in an old hearth.
Moi, Dich, We.
Embers radiate
beneath the newer wood
giving energy, encouragement
in a glowing cycle
of wood to ash,
in a stone fireplace,
vertebrally straight
and folklorically structural.

Then a change of wind
compels the careful closing of dampers
in Wales and Ireland,
London and Alsace Lorraine,
after torches pass solemnly
to the safekeeping of small hands.
Cupped fingers protect
against fierce foreign gales
and cold Atlantic sprays –
until, near wicks end,
the torch-bearer arrives
in a land full of questions:
What are you called?
Where are you from?

Shifting names and sliding birth places
conspire with hushed tongues,
to hide or extinguish delicate flames.

We are you.
They are not us.
Transformation. Re-creation.
Police men and indentured servants;
Plumbers and factory workers;
Teachers and prolific illiterate Xs;
Big Catholic families and Protestant work ethics;
Diaries, ledgers, photos –

Pause. A librarian,
wrapped in the long wool coat
her mother wore 40 years ago,
standing on the banks of the Charles River
where her mother’s mother
had posed
in a long wool coat
her hand resting on the black baby carriage
of her first-born.

Wer? Qui? Who? Me?
Standing on Memorial Drive,
I push my hands
into the pockets of my rose-colored coat
and breathe deeply
exhaling a wordless contented mist,
as I turn
taking my first step
towards home.


(Photography by Callie Huber)