Ivan V. Lalić’s poem resonated with a series of circumstances at the time I read it. It is set at the equinox, and I read it on the day of the equinox. It speaks of memories of children dying in a fire and I had just heard about the tragedy at a children’s home in Guatemala. Lalić talks about angels; one of the victims was named Gabriela. This had me thinking about Lalić’s explorations of memory and imagination, memory and weather-induced atmosphere. I stumbled upon a news photo of the funeral of one of the victims, where all the mourners and pallbearers were women, which also found its way into the poem (the fire happened on international women’s day and many of those who died were girls).
The inscrutable drama of a March sky
flashes to stillness
and I remember
remember pleated satin in the sunshine,
red carnations askew against the white,
shouldered by sisters, aunts, mother,
two-handed, struggling with the load,
adolescent dolorosa with a pink plastic handbag,
tattooed angel who ended up in care.
Safe, they said, inside the razor wire, confined
upstairs, inventing anger, burning beds,
the lives I rehearse
for you, as precise and real
as shadow trees on bright stone,
fragile gift of equinox eclipsed by sudden rain.