by Elizabeth Esris
Hemingway is in Paris
when my German great-grandmother
boils clothes on Marcy Avenue
in Brooklyn. Her feet wear
cast-off leather, like bark
from a dying tree.
She pulls her long hair taut
for chores and children’s cries.
wants to let it down,
lift her to the night sky as he did
when the New World promised
beauty like the stars.
He aches to see her in moonlight
her hair in his hands.
They will share secrets in darkness,
and she will conjure poems
to write with her gold pen, salvaged
from their past.
He works from morning dark, carving
windswept tails, harnessed heads,
and charging hooves of horses.
Each will soar with mirrored lights
and music for hands to reach
a brass ring. His hands are torn
when he climbs lightless stairs.
I imagine him wanting her
and knowing “they” are lost.
He dies when A Farewell to Arms is published
leaving five children and his name.
She keeps stride in his shoes, carves
monuments in five hearts, enshrines
Papa for generations, sends sons
into mid-century, their American contrails
colored with his legend.
They resurrect his artistry over cocktails;
venerate his passion in the haze of cigarettes.
Then they quip
about his shoes on her feet. Discuss
her house dresses, faded hair,
knotted hands, and incoherent verses
chanted to an empty sky.
Before she dies, she holds
the pearl-stemmed pen,
relic of words unwritten,
the filigree of its golden point
a vestige of memory.
She wraps it in yellowed lace
and gives it to her daughter.
This is long before A Moveable Feast
is published, when Hemingway
looks back on Paris and the truth:
the hard young years,
delicious and joyful
Elizabeth Esris taught secondary English and creative writing in Bucks County, PA for 23 years. Her poems have appeared in journals including Wild River Review, The Schuylkill Valley Journal, River Heron Review, and in France Revisited where a number of her travel articles appear. She wrote the libretto for Elegy for a Prince in collaboration with composer Sergio Cervetti; it premiered in excerpts at New York City Opera’s VOX Opera Showcase in 2007.