To some, dusk is a stumblebum dawn tripped on the stairs.
A grand entrance was planned, the staircase fabulous,
the dazzling sunlight behind the window atop the stairs
half blinding all the upturned eyes awed by the sight
of that top-floor prodigy prepared, preordained to gracefully descend.
But reckless feet tangled in the folds of the poorly laid red carpet.
The sharp edges of each step made for a bruising fall.
Of course the banister was grabbed many times,
but the sheer momentum of the tumble
yanked the arms like an inquisitor’s rack.
The torso turned over and over until it hit bottom,
its potential and kinetic energy spent.
Finally the falling body was at rest
on the cold naked floor beyond the reach of the chintzy red carpet.
Inertia forbade any attempt to rise and try again,
and pain deterred even the thought of it.
There can be only one descent from beginning to end.
And now Stumblebum’s eyes are closing but can still see up the stairs
all the way to the top window no longer filled with sunlight,
but dim and growing dimmer, the grand entrance reduced to pratfall
The Same Chemistry of Tears
Dad let me stay up late medicating with eyedroppers full of milk, a hopeless remedy.
Next morning I cried when dad and I in solemn procession carried the garbage bag coffin.
There by the front-lawn bush was the funeral.
Dad offered a parody of prayer.
But I, a six year old who nursed then lost his pet, really cried.
Years later I said prayers for my father and cried the same chemistry of tears,
for all tears of grief are for washing out not motes from the eyes, but sorrow from the soul.
Grief-laden tears, all tears of emotion, share the same concentrations of proteins and salts.
Of course for dad I still cry, sometimes.
Now I’m here again, and once more there’s a congregation of two.
I am the father now; my son is bored.
He proclaims that all old bones are dust; and so they are.
He scolds that there's nothing to find here,
and claims I’m being silly, no worse—sappy.
He wants us to get back into the car and move on.
But I recall exactly where the ancient grave is,
there to the right of the door under that tree that was once a bush.
Father and son—I recall. Father and son—now. Father and son—someday
How selfish of me, ridiculous, cruel even.
Decades from now, I will want him to remember this futile visit
and cry the same chemistry while boring his son to tears.
Richard Fein was finalist in The 2004 Center for Book Arts Chapbook Competition. He has an upcoming chapbook to be published by Parallel Press, University of Wisconsin, Madison. Richard has been published in many web and print journals, such as Southern Review, Morpo Review, Perigee, Skyline, Oregon East, Southern Humanities Review, Touchstone, Windsor Review, Maverick, Parnassus Literary Review, Small Pond, Kansas Quarterly, Blue Unicorn, Exquisite Corpse, Terrain Aroostook Review and many others. Richard also has an interest in digital photography and has published many photos.