On the other side

I stand outside a solid wall

of ancestral olive wood.
It contains gnarly wooden fruits
from the memory of what— once was
an olive branch.
Clutching my camera, 
I press my eye 
against a gape in the wall to see— 
through to the other side.
I spy a woman—she doesn’t see me— 
perhaps she’s forty. 
Her face swollen red, soaked by tears— 
she’s mouthing words in a whisper.
I hear the scratch of her pen 
as it moves across
the back of her family icon:
  Easter Sunday, 1843
Recalling the day, her body heaves! 
On a sheet of plain paper
she draws a line 
from up to down.
In the middle 
she draws a new line from left to right– 
the lines form a cross. 
Beneath the cross she writes:
  Eternal Their Memory
Her hand quivers— 
slowly she pens her husband’s name:
then her sons’ names:
She hands her list to the village priest 
furtively waiting at her door. He tells her
he will bless their names
with the names of the other dead.
Her body falls to the floor.
She’s crying, but I hear no sound.
She curls up like a wounded bird
before it dies. Her silence
sears my soul— 
as I stand – safe – on the other side.

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