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Checkmate
By Lucio Mariani
Translated by Anthony Molino


I was born in Rockaway, below Brooklyn, on a strip
of land that looks like a fat finger stretching into the Atlantic.
I remember no woman who cherished my cradle or teenage
awe. And yet, it was special to grow up behind a hedge,
with the ocean every day in my eyes, special
to uncover the pride my father's Italian face couldn't hide
the time I brought home my first accountant's paycheck.
He wanted to play chess and, smoking but two cigarettes,
let me beat him unequivocally, on a combination rook-and-queen.
He ended by saying to always watch out for those treacherous towers
and the black-and-white crosses their long moves plot.

"Treacherous," he said, somberly: I remembered the word
with a smile that Tuesday, September 11,
as I raced to work through Manhattan.
                And I recall his warning now
that I am dust scattered by an obscene blast
dust lost among the dusts of others undone
below a ravaged sidewalk, next to the leaf where
never will my father find me not even
to hold the hand I'd use to play him. I came from Rockaway
where I knew no woman's love or warmth:
may one now come and ask the white irises
to bloom in my name, faded, erased.

                Rome, September 26, 2001

--------

A poem for the date. I remember, growing up, how every November 22nd I thought it was strange and morbid how everyone born before 1958 would get going on exactly where they were, what they were doing, when they heard. Now I understand far better than I want to.

Rather than trying to talk about it, I'm just going to link to my post from last year.

Hebrew school starts for the year today. As does soccer. Must get into minivan and be Jewish soccer mom...


A skyline defined by absence, from New Jersey.

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