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Christopher Columbus by Joe Urso

Urso-1 Babies were born in maternity hospitals in my day. Nuns were nurses and the wards for the newly living. The other kind were for those who could afford the bill and the dying. Joe’s mom and mine checked into Brady Maternity Hospital on the same day in 1960. The four of us checked out together the following morning - quick as you can - side by side returning home to the same neighborhood. On a Sunday afternoon in the autumn of 1968, Joe’s father became the first of our parents to die at home over the next thirty years. While he lay shrouded on his bed, our mothers drank coffee with the funeral director around the dining room table. My father acted as host for family, friends, and all our neighbors arriving to pay their respects. Joe and I sought shelter on our backs underneath the ancient willow tree in his backyard. While the sky darkened the wind gathering strength rushed upon us, enlivening the long, thin, golden branches winnowing the grass. Leaves falling whirled around us, floating to their rest like the years that have passed between us. As we lay aimless on a sea of yellow leaves, I closed my eyes and watched Joe drift away from me, our homes scuttled in a yellow ocean, our neighborhood swallowed by waves with crests shimmering in the sunlight piercing the umbrella of the willow tree. Urso-2 Still on his back Joe told a story. Sunday last, his father took him to the Madison Theatre in the neighborhood to see “Camelot.” Right before the movie’s intermission, Richard Harris began a soliloquy which Joe recited to me as if it were the declaration of independence – despite the day, amid the wind, his uplifted eyes watching the falling leaves. “I’m gonna be like King Arthur Jack. I only wanna fight for what is right.” Years later, we must have been about twelve, “Camelot” returned to The Madison. On the anniversary of his father’s passing, Joe dragged me and his memories into The Madison. Joe cried as the soliloquy ended and the intermission began, sitting upright and staring at the screen when the lights grew from dim to bright but not bothering to hide his face as the audience marched past us. Seeing the moonlight highlight the breeze blowing through Vanessa Redgrave’s nightgown was the only part of the movie that moved me. Joe spent the rest of his life in a constant state of discovery. Whenever he reached a distant shore he experienced the misfortune of never recognizing the place so he always sailed on. Now Joe has returned home like the tide, like the willow’s autumn leaves, like tomorrow’s sunlight, like so many memories returning home with the heart that held them to rest in an everlasting sleep.

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Profile for Amos Greig

Anu issue 34 / A New Ulster  

The July issue of the Northern Irish literary magazine A New Ulster featuring the works of Michael Whelan, Scott Thomas Outlar, Richard Halp...

Anu issue 34 / A New Ulster  

The July issue of the Northern Irish literary magazine A New Ulster featuring the works of Michael Whelan, Scott Thomas Outlar, Richard Halp...

Profile for amosgreig
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