If only
by Ramie Streng

Dedicate to the memory of Gertrude Lowenstein
and to my dear mother Mary Perry Stone

There's a photo of your sculpture

But not of you.

"Yes", my mother says

"She was a fine sculptor."

I imagine you, dark hair falling in your face,

Huddled with your three small children

Your cheek touching the gas stove.

"If only I had known,

If only I had been close by."

You heard the whispers of gas some fifty years ago,

I hear my mother's sad voice.

Let's change your story

It's New York City 1952

My mother lives but seven city blocks away.

You call

She's home.

"Mary, They're releasing him . He's home tomorrow. I can't handle it."

" I'm coming Gertrude. Just sit tight. "

You put coats on the children , wrap the baby in your shawl.

Mary steps out of the cab . The elevator rises up eight floors

She glides through your unchained door

Right up to you

Bundled in your heavy, winter coat.

She gently takes

Your hot hand in her cool one

One baby under her arm , your toddlers grabbing at your coat

You're through the open door

Down the corridor you can see the elevator buttons.

You hear her soft voice.

"Come Gertrude, let's go little babes, the cab is waiting.

We'll find a way. "

You look into her brown eyes ,

She smiles

You grip her hand tighter

Ready to follow her anywhere.

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