10/15/00 9:16pm Polishing Silver after Dinner


10/15/00      9:16pm

Polishing Silver after Dinner

It is Sunday. It is time for dinner.

I have baked an apple pie.

This is the time of year that apples

are filling our orchards. They are

blooming now yielding still this year,

even though it happened. Even after the front

page news today, eight months later.

Dinner ended, we wash the dishes

together, scrubbing the soil, soaking

the crystal to see if we could find our reflection,

to see if a light was burning still, after dinner

and, after the reading. Ritual cleansing in our manner,

washing away dirt like the dishwasher never

could. Washing and rinsing the sins from our feasting.

Standing as we were that night on the back of his


When I noticed the dirty silver, silver that

had to be polished. Tarnished, dulling rubbing looking

for a shine.

Showing the paper,  I read the front page

that told another story. This time about a murder.

he was stabbed ten times in a tenement,

living in that hell, dying in that crack.

Who held the knife that tore his body,

shredding his soul? When did he leave us,

to have that baby, after the rapes

or before? How did that baby find a name?

How can his child wear the mantle of this legacy?

Who will bear the tale of our indifference

to that rape, to the shredding of a paper that told

the story, of the molestation that has continued

since his birth? How will our children bear

this legacy, this story of a lonely death, a desolate life?

Let me find the mountain and climb to it’s heights.

A mountain can smother this sadness in the tops

where the lonely wolves howl. But if I cannot climb

then I must continue this mad polishing, circling the cutlery,

the pieces so tarnished, they are almost black

and beyond our recognition. As we rub, the motion,

circles, burnishing the darkness that is covering our souls.

Illumined revolving seeking a brilliance we may never

find. When you rinse off the polish, use water so

hot that it scalds. You may make a luster that will

last forever. Dry each utensil separately, circling

the stains on the silver, rubbing out the blots

with a cloth of white until a radiance emerges,

though the shining doesn’t matter to him anymore.

Rubbing and scrubbing to cover the choking,

sepulchral heaving that I heard in my kitchen with the reading

of this story. Another of my children dying in a room,

lying there bleeding, all alone again. What song were the

angels singing this time, while he lay on the floor

receiving the beating, giving way to that knife?

How did they hover in that covering of the truth?

Who else is hiding behind the polish, who lies

in the black and silver darkness concealing,

while his blood soaks their rags?

And in this hiding, we must continue our cleaning

polishing the silver on Sunday evening,

after our dinner, after the washing,

after the reading     of his death.

Julia W. Burns, MD

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