Covering Rosmarie Waldrop
The Black Sea
is a metaphor
for what nobody wants
“Take cover,” she says quietly. “Take cover,” she says again and again and again. “Take cover,” she says. “It looks like rain.”
If the thesis is correct. They say it that way. If. And yet the radiocarbon supports it. The species of mollusks support it. The ancient shoreline supports it. Gilgamesh supports it.
It is an old story. But one that can still be told.
My grandparents sailing across oceans in separate vessels. Taking nothing. Not even cover. Not even care.
How can you say that you are “leaving” if there is nothing left behind? I ask. Not even an ancient shoreline, not even that. When they arrive their names will be changed for them.
“There are no letters for your sounds in this language, Sir.”
From one camp to a different kind of camp. Instead of disappearing everyone finds a pair because as long as a thing endures it must be shared. Everyone with new names and new families moving to new cities in two by two by two. The lucky few.
Choosing a soul mate from the Displaced Persons and walking off into the sunset together.
Even the rainclouds have a silver lining, no?
A nice way to think about it.
An old story that can still be told.
The earth fills with violence and somewhere the thought comes to destroy all life under the heavens, every creature that has breath in it, everything will perish.
“This is how you knead the bread,” my grandmother says. “Keep kneading.”
This becomes a World War and since history is repeating itself we see this again and again and again. (“Take cover,” she says quietly.)
“Keep your fingers wet with the water as you knead,” says my grandmother. “Keep kneading.”
And the thought comes of survival of the fittest or, as the case may be, the most righteous. The lucky few. Except not all who are righteous have access to cypress wood. Except so many of the righteous are lost…
And the thought comes to put a door on the side of it and to make a lower and middle and an upper deck. But what about the windows? There will be no windows.
“This is how you knead the bread.”
Clean animals are fit to be eaten and for that reason more than a single pair may board. A lucky few. And they are good people so they do as they’re told.
“In the war camps, this is how we needed bread:
Sometimes we’d mix in ashes from the fire.”
This is the account of a family of a family. This is the reason you have Long Lost Cousins. What was lost with the displaced persons? What was lost in our separate vessels are the things we will not speak of. Besides, you know very well there was only a single vessel.
Not crossing the Black Sea but still, that’s what it felt like. No windows.
They said, “Ropes are to be kept near in case of need.” They said it that way. In case.
Muscular fatigue was ascribed to the irritating effects of nerve plates, of an excess of water in the organs.
We dreamt of diving off the upper deck and into the water and being stung by a sting-ray on the eighteenth day. To cure injuries caused by the sting-ray, they tell us, you must find a woman willing to urinate into the wound. As there were hardly any women there, this proved nearly impossible at the time. At that time, we stopped dreaming.
And they stood at the window and let loose a raven that never returned.
But you said there were no windows?
They stood at the window and saw shadows give shape to light.
If I say there are windows, then suddenly there are windows.
If I stand at a window, am I waiting?
a window as a boundary
more than a gateway into
where are they now?
The lucky few
Almost every culture includes an ancient flood story. Details vary, but the basic plot is the same: Deluge kills all but a lucky few.
Only the slightest evidence of life survives. Like shells one finds among shore rocks. A lucky few.
There are similarities and there are differences in each rendition and every retelling. Differences might include a window or a meal. They had no bread for instance, or at least not leavened. In one version, the destruction was wrought by gas and not water at all.
According to the legend, he was hesitant to take that first step onto new ground. Not because he mourned what was lost but because he was afraid of what it would mean to survive.
There is a word for luck in our language that does not translate into a thing that is good.
Slowly, slowly we walked through the streets, seeming to glide above the ground.
Every step is a tentative one because it will happen again and again and again.
“Take cover,” we say. “It looks like rain”
1. Genesis 5:32-10:1
2. The Epic of Gilgamesh
3. National Geographic, Ballad & The Black Sea
4. Rosmarie Waldrop, A Form/of Taking/It All
Rebekah Bergman writes short stories and poems. Her first book of poetry The Body Theater will be published by O Balthazar Press in 2015. She lives in Brooklyn and is pursuing an MFA at the New School.