Home > Journaling the Apocalypse > Depth of Field

Depth of Field

October 16, 2008

A cement porch with a vinyl-cushioned metal glider and posts with diagonally cut wood slats for decoration. There are several arborvitae clustered around the porch, green against white paint. The temporal address: 7420 Piedmont Street, Detroit, Michigan.

An indeterminate year. An unknown season.

Cousin Tony is standing behind Sophia who is sitting on the green glider holding the tiny Christmas 1944 baby. Walter is seated beside her. Everyone is just as they had been when they died. Tony has a Marine buzz cut, mud on his camouflage fatigues from some unnamed jungle in Vietnam. And blood. The insignia of his rank did not stop the bullets. Sophia and Walter are wizened apple dolls. She died of a fast-growing cancer and he was killed in a house fire. The baby in Sophia’s withered lap has a blue face because of the umbilical cord that had been wrapped around his neck when he was born dead into a world at war.

Richard Walter is sitting on the cement steps. Doreen Marie is beside him. Brother and sister. He died alone from a stroke or a heart attack, who knows? She died of an overdose of prescription methadone. Each of them is too young to die but they are dead just the same. Like Tony and the baby. Like Sophia and Walter, both in their early seventies. Too soon to say goodbye.

Fred Brown is there by the door, grinning his signature big grin. He is not in the bits and pieces, what was left of him after he was murdered, but the young man he’d been, only a week or so from his seventeenth birthday, just before he is killed. Buried on his birthday like it was a present or a surprise wake someone had given him. He is African-American and some might argue, not a member of this family, on this porch in the Polack working class ghetto where everyone else came from.

Since this is a portrait of my beloved dead, Fred is most definitely among them. He is saying out loud to anyone who will listen, “Christina isn’t white, she’s Polish.” My mother smiles her crooked smile and my dad barks a laugh like he knows a lot more about something but he isn’t telling. Richard and Doreen invite Fred to sit down on the steps with them. The Christmas Baby is happy to be with everyone at last.

The shutter snaps — this is not a digital phone dammit but a real camera — and I shoot picture after picture convinced that the light is exactly right, the moment too good to be true.

Like stepping into the same river twice — not the River Styx but another river — Missouri   Vistula   San  Ganges  Danube  Tigris  Euphrates  Yukon  Orinoco  Amazon  Nile  Mekong Mississippi  Detroit — these beloved dead aren’t easily gathered again.

by Christina Pacosz

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  1. Christina Pacosz
    October 16, 2008 at 10:52 am

    How appropriate to have this poem appear today, October 16, 2008, the twenty-first anniversary of my father Walter Pacosz’ death in the house fire in Lancaster, South Carolina. A synchronicity in print between that time and the now. All the dead would approve, I think.

  2. Melanie Shaw
    October 16, 2008 at 11:16 am

    For me this is a poem that speaks to me personally , for having known the Pacosz family and being touched by their loving beings. Christina has a wonderful way with words and putting pieces of herself into her writing. I must say this is my favorite poem of them all.

  3. October 16, 2008 at 11:27 am

    Beautifully done. Thank you.

    Sometimes I think all we have to offer each other, really, is the memory of our dead and missing.

  4. Kim Becker
    October 16, 2008 at 11:35 am

    A powerful tribute from a poet whose work I always admire.

  5. Merry Youle
    October 17, 2008 at 1:15 am

    I have read many poems by Christina Pacosz, and this remains one of my very favorite, parly for its style, even more for its vivid portraits. She captures the essence of each of those beings succinctly, poignantly, honestly. Thank you for publishing such fine work.

  6. October 17, 2008 at 4:41 am

    I have not read any weak poem or prose by Christina.This is why I’ve translated her works into my mother language :Farsi.

  7. October 17, 2008 at 10:22 am

    Simple power and shattering eloquence is the hallmark of anything written by Pacosz. Her gifts often overwhelm me. Any journal or website that features her work is tops in my opinion.

  8. October 17, 2008 at 11:18 am

    Thanks, Laurel! We’ll be featuring another piece by Pacosz later on this issue, so stay tuned.

  9. October 19, 2008 at 1:38 am

    Desperately, beautifully sad and moving. Thank you.

  10. November 10, 2008 at 4:05 pm

    Thanks for this bit of the past.

  11. Dolly Flanders
    February 15, 2011 at 4:40 pm

    To Christina Pacosz to whom I believe might be a childhood friend from Piedmont St in Detroit, MI. Nicely done, I understand you area a poet now. If this is you Tina, please
    email me (dollyflanders@yahoo.com). Dolores Draus was my maiden name.
    I go by Dolly Flanders now and live in CA.

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