We the Living are Gathered Together Across the sprawl of this apartment complex knitted into hills north of Fredericksburg, gravel paths spread like fingers reaching into dark woods, dip and disappear in little lights mysteriously hovering above basement laundry rooms and oddly painted stairwells. Men once left behind all they loved and traveled to these hills and died. Fragments of battle scattered through loam and moss tweak metal detectors of weekend historians exploring slopes, ridges, and ruts. I know this about my neighbors â€” the Chinese man makes a ritual of walking his son to the trash bin at the end of the parking lot every Wednesday morning, Tuesday and Thursday two women in their early seventies walk the dirt trail beside the road like a solemn act of passage before the sun crests the ridge of oaks, the black woman in the apartment below me always straps her son in the car seat of her Mazda as a prelude to unwrapping the tin foil of their breakfast bars they chew driving away, and there are those with late night loud music, those pitched in the dark with babies wailing, those in drunken bouts dissolving in absurd accusations and curses, those with throttled anger in marital discord, those with lights out before sunset, and those that are known by a stack of newspapers that collect a couple of weeks before vanishing behind rusty orange doors. Where men became stones in earth under oak, hickory, pines rising along slopes, along the stream babbling over rounded rocks, we the living are gathered together, etched by daily turmoil shifting and settling us into relics of time.
James Mackie is currently the Mental Health Therapist at the Rappahannock Regional Jail in
Stafford, Virginia. In 2011, his poems appeared in Pudding Magazine and Poem. His two books of poetry, A Portrait in Green and Letters to My Imaginary Wife, are available on Amazon. Fall 2013 Volume 1, Issue 1
A compilation of the Fredericksburg Literary and Art Review, Volumes 1 and 2 (2013-2014)