He's good as gold with loose papers — though
useless with open books, which have spine, and a mind
of their own; he fits neatly into the palm of my hand,
compact, and easy to clean.
An objet d'art when she found him — a gift from a
client, perhaps — he's slipped quietly into the afterlife
of a genuine antique.
He'd been a touchstone, a sacrament, almost,
for my Russian Orthodox mother —
an Arab barefoot on a rug, arms raised to the sky,
clearly praying, although on his feet —
and immensely dear to her heart. They had shared
not just their devotion, but disasters lived through
together — years of war that made other times
seem more than a little surreal.
He'd been a wordless diary, a constant presence
glowing with a soft, metallic sheen — mute witness to
survival, an emblem of personal space, a room
of her own when there'd been none.
When she fell, at last, out of this life, I caught him
as intended, solid as belief. I've had him facing
this way or that on a succession of desks —
eyes raised, palms turned to Mecca, his fixed
A Vienna bronze, perhaps 1920s, most likely
a Jewish workshop — a fusion of metals and cultures,
before Holocaust, West Bank or Gaza; a figure
in robes, on a small carpet, its yellows and reds
realistically creased, his sandals — suspended over
thin air at the edge of a tasselled fringe —
hinting slyly at flight.
Aesthetics ranked high in her life — a second, earthly
religion — all the style she could afford in the world
her parents had fled to.
I weigh him in the palm of my hand, without
assigning a price — indisputably bronze, authentic,
unfazed by all the fakeries criss-crossing the globe.
Perhaps still listening to her, to the prayers he'd
overhear — a Muslim floating on Orthodox faith,
as her presence still hovers around him.
Michael Sariban is a Brisbane poet and reviewer.