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Ralph James Savarese


Remember Solomon from The Bible?

Well, he was wrong: anything

can be divided, even a mother’s

body, without prompting virtue

in at least one of her children.

She’s dead, of course, unlike

the infant in the story, and in theory

no more damage can be done

to her, but her memory is whole;

her spirit is whole. Who wants

another round of motherhood,

being ripped to shreds

by the snarling wolves of want?

Who wants to spend eternity

in so many dens at once?

The crematorium is king now,

dispensing its fiery wisdom

or what passes as wisdom: the body

without blood. Like cockroaches

after the apocalypse, acrimony

shall prevail. Bring in the lawyers.

“You will each get one-fifth

of your mother’s remains.” Although

every child says he should get all

of her, my claim—I know, I know—

seems more reasonable. After all,

I protected her with my skull,

with my ten-year-old bones.

Would that she were a fifth

of Jack Daniels! We’d sit at a bar

until we were toast, burnt

beyond recognition, which is

just how she liked her toast.

She was the one who taught me

fractions, a family’s improper ones.


It almost has the word “fine” in it,

as in, “My mother was so fine.”

Like a ghost, the “e” is present,

though not in person.

“Finial,” too, that ornament of love

on the roof ridge of sorrow.

“Up here! Up here! Look at me!”

cries the wanting “i.”

How my mother could fashion a house!

(A decorator never calls

anything decorative.)

Black walls in a living room!

And “fail,” though it isn’t lacking a letter.

A coffin, like a narcissist, never pines.

The word is short on life;

it always makes a killing.

Marriages fail, businesses fail…

Never trust a broker—

Cupid, oxygen, E.F. Hutton—

that alphabets against you.