Icon, by David Radavich
It’s not a story I expected I would ever tell. Certainly not a poem. A dusty road somewhere outside Zagreb. Yugoslavia was still its full egg. Vendors were perched along the roadside selling flashy artifacts to tourists like us, alighting from the bus to take care of business and maybe eye the local fruit.
It struck my eye: maybe walnut, carefully framed, a golden mother and her child embossed within. It couldn’t be real gold; not at that price. I looked at other artificial treasures then kept returning in my steps to the sad Madonna cradling. That one needed a home, and so I carried her beyond the road.
Some years later I think hard on the country that was, and Humpty-Dumpty, the broken self at the bottom of the wall. The Zagreb of imagination, patient behind the road we traveled, now centre of the new Croatia. Many died, claims were made for it. New shops beckon with fresh glass. The Madonna still glistens on my bookshelf without change.
And what of our own country, that may have fallen into pieces? Or maybe not. We are surrounded by eggs, and few handle them carefully. The stalwart frame still cradles the gold woman and child, who by now have seen everything, even the fall of powerful states. How much she remembers with her quiet eyes.
There’s nothing more to tell. An image brings back the dead, foretells the future of our fragments. The bus drives on, we are all convinced we have something in our hands for memory. Mother of God, protect our coming and our going, the shells we walk on, the stories we inhabit with no frame.
David Radavich's recent poetry collections are America Bound: An Epic for Our Time, Middle-East Mezze, and The Countries We Live In. His plays have been performed across the U.S., including six Off-Off-Broadway, and in Europe. He has served as president of the Thomas Wolfe Society, Charlotte Writers' Club, and North Carolina Poetry Society and given performances in such countries as Egypt, Germany, Greece, and Iceland. www.davidradavich.org.
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