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 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:
is short for “them.”
He would enumerate their sins—
Enumerate any sins—
Always, they were on trial,
He’d produce ample evidence
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
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
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”
Who read the Bible differently than I did—
Or didn’t read it at all.
“They” were The Liberals,
Then, as I evolved toward enlightenment,
“They” were The Conservatives:
(And conveniently, I will never be
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,
Can’t you see
That I am innocent?
“They say he give them but two words,
‘More weight,’ he said
©2016 Katherine Grace Bond