Marvin Lurie

Self Portrait in Letters and Stone (2017)

When we moved away
I bought Endowed Care for my parents' and grandparents' graves.
I didn't want them vandalized by time
as some graves there:
headstones tumbled,
overgrown by bushes and vines.
Many are for immigrants,
who came knowing they would never again see their families,
the graves of their ancestors.
Now themselves abandoned there.

I discard the past
unprepared for what might well up years later
to demand closure.
In my mother's apartment after the funeral
I found letters from my father
before they married, I was born and he fled into death.
They burned my hand.
I threw them away unread --
my last chance to know my father.

Kongfuzi said, when your parents have become ancestors
they are still your parents.
Bury them and sacrifice to them
in accordance to the rites.
I relinquished my responsibility to the cemetery foundation
and its workers who trim the grass, blow away leaves
and straighten headstones.
I want to believe they think about the dead in their care.
On their Day of the Dead they include my ancestors in their prayers
so they are not abandoned.
On that day, I would re-read my father's letters
to know who he was and if I'm like him,
settle with myself whether I have been worthy or not.
But nothing is ever settled.
It's too late.
It was always too late.

 

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