What Lies Beneath

Early on Thursday

a truck, toting a backhoe

arrived at the small, grey-blue house

to undo the ordinary cement patio.

As a jackhammer did its work, 

jagged slabs of concrete loosened

for the backhoe to scoop up.

Heavy, stagnant,

the concrete did not bend or flex.

Awkwardly, the backhoe coaxed

each piece toward the waiting truck.


the earth took a deep, cleansing breath.

Shaking off the modern mantle,

the ground released woolen threads

from a tartan picnic blanket

that lay on this spot in 1942.

Ripe apples, waxy cheese and iced tea

scented the air

during a rare respite in wartime Washington, D.C.

The next breath

recalls the Union soldiers

who tramped through the light woods

toward nearby Virginia Seminary,

now a hospital for the wounded.

Drawing deep,

the earth protects a shell necklace

dropped 400 years ago

by a noble Algonquian.

Living in harmony 

with mother earth,

the Algonquian understood

we are all visitors here.

A Brother Lost

Hidden among the microfilm reels

in the National Archives

lies the ghost

of a lost brother.

My father’s father, Elia,

set sail from Boulogne-Sur-Mer

aboard the SS Ryndam in 1921,

a small scar on his forehead

his only documented belonging.

Fleeing life in Austria,

Elia’s older brother Samuel

a bookbinder,

paid his passage.

Family lore

follows the brothers west to Denver.

But why Denver?

Why escape the Austrian Empire’s

cold reaches in Kolomyya

for the mountainous west?


the lost brother floats around the edges.

Elia and Samuel,

stricken with tuberculosis,

took treatments

at the Consumptive Relief Society Hospital

in Lakewood, Colorado.


the lost brother rises.

Elia and Samuel had

followed breadcrumbs

from an older brother Max,

who first blazed the trail,

before consumption took him

at the tender age of 25.

One insipid illness,

plaguing a generation,

changed the path of my family,

and marked the map of human destiny.