The Puzzle
January 1997, ed. 2/03/05
By g.l. Bass (the ghostbear still lives)
For Vicki because she remembers

Out the screen door,
Off the old gray, age-worn
Front wooden stoop,
Hand flat over tired eyes,
Squinting hard into afternoon sun,
Following shadows along the wall,
Her mother yells,
“Sarah! Are you there?”
Hidden, a small, frail ghost
Sheltered against tall silo,
And rock corner of the wall,
Defended by lilac,
Coveted by fragile pink and white
Phlox flowers,
Delicate, she squats protected
In the dark corner puzzle
Of the wall.

Her grandfather’s rough,
Strong but gentle hands,
Hand laid the wall.
She tells her secrets here.
She creates her world here.
Her father’s anger.
Her mother’s tears,
The shouts of frustration,
All of her fears she cries
Out amongst the lilacs,
The vines, and she lets
The wall have them.

She stands slow, tight to the wall,
She traces her finger along the rough,
Clumps of mortar and stone.
Her fingertips feel the cracks and crevices
As if she has concealed
Each small secret,
Each tiny tear,
Each small fear,
Here in the wall.
Her life,
Woven in a puzzle
Of brick and mortar,
By someone she remembers only
By the touch, grasp, and strength
Of his hands.
“Yes, mother I’m here.”

Her eyes closed against the midday sun,
The child’s a woman now.
The house gone,
Burned, bulldozed beneath earth.
The barn,
Torn down and hauled away.
The silo, but its lower extremity left,
Amassed and surrounded by wild vine,
Overgrown by grass and weed.
Only the wall remains.
As if her grandfather’s work,
Somehow sacred,
Refused to succumb
To the wrath of
Highways, towns, developers,
And years of neglect.
Her grandfather’s
Rough work a marker
Of his gentle,
Yet strong will.
The wall remains.

She parked off the road.
Walked amongst the tall delicate
Pink and white Phlox flowers
That still grow.
No one tends this garden anymore.
But still the wall keeps it safe.
She touches, and traces her fingers
Along the wall.
She closes her eyes.
The puzzles of memories flash
Across her mind,
As if each woven square
But a picture saved, stored,
Kept secret,
Kept silent,
Within rock and mortar.

The shadows still hold the corner.
The corner still shelters the lilacs.
Her back against the wall,
She leans her full weight
Back into time,
Back into the shadows.
She holds a bouquet of pink and white
In her hand.
She lays them softly on the corner
Of the wall.

Her mother’s death was sudden.
Her father,
Someone she no longer knew.
He abandoned them
When the farm failed.
She hadn’t intended to ever
Be here again.
She is here today.
Her mother’s grave was not
The place for goodbye’s
Or Phlox bouquets.
Here today,
This was her sanctuary.
Her place to say, “Goodbye.”
The puzzle of her life started here,
And somehow,
Here was where
She had to be now.

Finding her way back,
Along the wall,
Her memories,
Her fairytales,
Her Secrets,
Her pains,
All here at the wall.
Her childhood retraced
Along a puzzle of years.
She broke off a small piece
Of the top corner stone.
Held it,
Rubbed it smooth,
And imagined her grandfather
Laying the stone gently in place.
He intended it to be a foundation.
She knew somehow,
For her,
It had been.

Just before turning out
Into traffic,
She glanced back
Just once more.
A final picture,
The white and pink Phlox,
The silo’s remains,
And the wall.
She closed her eyes,
A thunder of memories
Flashed before her.
“Strange,” she said
To herself,
“Why is it?
I came here to say goodbye
To mom,
I remember grandfather?
Maybe it’s just
The wall.”