Sunday, April 4, 2010

Easter Snapshot


I may no longer be Christian, but that's not to say that I have become completely detached from my Christian roots. On the contrary, I credit Christianity for providing me with a moral and ethical foundation upon which I have since expanded. My problems with Christianity stem more from an awareness that I came to in my late 20s that nothing seems to corrupt a belief/philosophical structure more than making it about the man instead of the message, and that Christians don't have a monopoly on morality. Every decent religion, I've learned, strives for a higher sense of self among its followers. None of that takes away from my appreciation for what Jesus did and taught during his all-too-brief lifetime.

I particularly have a strong connection to Easter. It doesn't come from any personal feelings regarding the supposed resurrection of Jesus following his execution. Rather, it's comes from my childhood memories of Easter. Growing up, my mother always made a deal out it. We didn't go to church or even paint Easter eggs and such. But my mother would always get us Easter outfits, and we would spend the day doing something fun.

The picture posted above was shot on Easter Sunday in 1977, if I'm remembering correctly. On this Easter we spent the day touring Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. Easter for us was and basket full of sweets and an outing. Considering how my family has shrunken of late (Two of the four people in the photo are now dead, plus my stepfather, John O'Connor, who is holding the camera.) I thought that today being Easter Sunday would offer me an opportunity to reflect on how much it meant to me.

This picture, as most do, has a story. I won't be so redundant as to go through every detail of that day. Instead, I will post a poem inspired by this picture. In it I hoped to capture not just the sense of family unity that the day represented back then, but to capture the unseen angst that lies beneath the image. The poem, I hope, reflects the story of a family that on the surface appears to be happy and normal but is ultimately deeply flawed. Happy Easter, everyone.


snapshot

Staring
at the only photograph
I have left, Easter—your head
wrapped neatly in a paisley
scarf, alabaster skin set
off by the scarlet of your top,
all 5’ nothing of you dwarfing
over the 3 of us, [how small
we were, and how as big
as the world you seemed to us
back then] holding JoJo’s fragile
little hand—JoJo, in his blue denim
overalls with a strap dangling
off his shoulder and his Buster
Brown do, free hand gripping
one link of the chain link—your other
arm held hard against KiKi’s heart—
KiKi, with her baby doll dress & her baby doll
smile & her white knee highs— and
there I am, the Little Man all grown
up at 8 or 9 or whatever, hair,
as always, waving wildly in the wind,
stylin’ in my plaid polyester belted lounge
lizard jacket, with matching bell
bottom bottom, foot propped
up, arms spread like I owned
the world like I knew I did;
all of us there, at the base
of Lady Liberty, Manhattan &
its now extinct towers barely
bursting through the fog, celebrating,
not God, not Jesus, not life, nor liberty,
nor the pursuit of happiness, but
love: the love that we could squeeze
out of this fucked up family that we
shared, that we accepted for better
of for worse, or for worse than that
because how can we forget those times?

I stare
at this, the only
photograph I have
left, & I imagine
the others, the ones
I don’t have, the ones
lost, the ones destroyed, even
the ones that never existed,
like the picture I never
took of you during one
of your dazed for days days,
lounging & lost in your
euphoria, hiding from problems
I didn’t, still don’t quite,
understand, like the picture
I never took of you bruised,
battered & beaten by
whatever flavor of the month
macho-sick monster you were
sampling, like the picture I never
took the day you cashed your
first paycheck, leaving the drugs,
the drink, the drunks & the drama
packed away neatly with your past,
or like the picture I never took
of you bloated, bleeding & bleached
on that hospital bed, your past
unpacking itself to prevent
your progress,
your present,
your presence…
your life briefed
down to vital signs & bad
mistakes you had already paid for
with interest.

Staring
as I tend to
do quite often, more
often than I like to admit,
at the only photograph
I have left, I am left
wanting more:
more than these faded
foggy fucked up fragments
that I can’t quite feel,
these pieces of memory
that float around in my head,
incomplete & inane,
that I can’t touch
or hold or strum
like a stringless guitar,
or cry on; they don’t
have the power
of this picture,
this one picture
this one last picture
where life was set
aside one Easter Sunday
just so
that we could remember
that even the fog
could not hide
the love captured
at the base
of Lady Liberty.