Stones

Great stones they lay upon his chest

Until he plead aye or nay…

It were a fearsome man, Giles Corey.

–Arthur Miller, The Crucible

 

There’s more to Dad’s legacy than this—

There’s his resonant voice reading Tennyson,

There’s John McCormick on the record player,

The immigrant great-grandparents,

Who passed their Irishness down like a wishing stone.

There are the six siblings,

The poverty,

The small, Protestant, Iowa town he left behind,

Then World War II,

The GI Bill,

And Dad arriving, finally, victoriously,

in law school.

 

But there is also this—

The onus of “other” that must be handed on,

Like an ill-fitting jacket,

To someone else:

 

The blacks,

The gays.

The-the-the.

 

“The”

is short for “them.”

 

He would enumerate their sins—

Enumerate any sins—

Crime,

Violence,

Ignorance,

 

Existence–

 

Always, they were on trial,

And always

He’d produce ample evidence

For conviction.

 

You’re just naïve, he’d tell me. When you’re older

You will understand.

His certainty squeezed my rib cage

Sucked the breath out of my lungs,

Each charge like a stone upon my chest.

 

My witness was only flimsy

Principles:

Do-unto-others,

All-created-equal,

Against the crush of his convictions,

Argued with the zealotry

Of a true believer—

 

We know who the real problem is,

But we’re too “politically correct”

To say so.

 

Bit by bit, his bigotry

Diminished him in my eyes.

I saw how it possessed him,

How it took his every good thought

Captive.

I couldn’t see then

That he was shoring up his own fortress

As his life grew smaller,

As victory gave way to despair,

And the law office gave way to homelessness.

 

He didn’t blame the devil for his troubles—

He found his devils in human beings.

So much easier

When you can identify the guilty party.

 

In time I found my own “them”

In people

Who read the Bible differently than I did—

Or didn’t read it at all.

“They” were The Liberals,

The Atheists,

The Literati.

 

Then, as I evolved toward enlightenment,

“They” were The Conservatives:

The Narrow—

Thank-God-that-I-Am-Not-Like-That

Billionaire—

(And conveniently, I will never be

A billionaire.)

 

Because all this hating

Is not from ME,

It’s THEM that are the haters.

I am a Seattle Native—

Well, not Native, exactly, but

You know what I mean—

I give my money to the right campaigns,

I am the mother of a queer child,

Some of my best friends are black.

 

I Get A Pass.

 

But stone upon stone

The accusations build.

I want it off my chest,

This legacy.

Can’t you see

That I am innocent?

 

“They say he give them but two words,

‘More weight,’ he said

And died.

 

©2016 Katherine Grace Bond