The Hole in My Morning

 Children taking shelter during the Blitz

You left a hole in the morning
of our daily tea and talks
about the French elections,
or the horde of iguanas overrunning
the commons around your condo
and swimming in the pool,
or the shut-ins you visited with
mail and conversation

There are holes now in my memories
of your stories, tattered recollections
of a childhood that wasn’t mine
fishing for tiddlers in the creek
in the English countryside,
toddling after an imperious great-aunt
your military father
teaching you to ride horse
deploying armies of toy soldiers
across the counterpane
teaching you ancestral pride
teaching you never to cry

Then came the Blitz,
the doodlebugs, winged bombs
raining from the sky.
You gave your bedroom to evacuees,
to children from the East End
and slept all winter in the attic
waking to a thin skin of ice
on your drinking glass

You were afraid of aggressive animals
like geese and goats
but not of leaving your island home
for strange lands
wrapping your lips around strange tongues

You left me boxes of books and records
and fragmentary tales
you could not forget but
refused to let me record:

The Greek War
you volunteered, bandaged the wounded
picked up body parts for burial
put a bullet through the brain of
a man who had tortured your comrades

The Algerian war
you hid the despised, the wives
of Algerian laborers tortured and murdered
by the Police Nationale

When the massacre was over
someone you trusted snitched
and sent you to jail

Then, at the end when the tumor began
to devour your memories
you swallowed your fear
and asked me one last gift
and I brought the Seconal and mixed it.
A last tear escaped your father’s watchful eye
as you gulped down the brew and left me,
left a hole in the morning

My elder, my mentor
you who advised me on actions
and elections and the minor troubles
of marriage
now I ask another gift from you,
wherever you are:

You left a hole in my heart
fill it with your courage.

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