He’s an iconoclastic collector of clinker bricks, who scours

the countryside for dumps and abandoned century-old foundations.

The bricks remind him of pre-industrial times when mistakes

were made in the kiln, placing bricks too close to the fire.

They’re misshapen and discolored, vitrified with volcanic texture,

reds, yellows, oranges, deep flash-burned browns, purple

and blacks with the accidental charm of no two bricks alike.

He scavenges for these bricks, once thrown out with the trash,

now sought after by designers for their uncommon architectural details.

He also collects ordinary bricks, keeping a list of the names

on each brick like a birder whose proud of every bird he’s seen.

One day he finds a brick with his mother’s name, ROSE, reminding him

he never visits the gravesites of his parents like they used to do, making

an annual trek on the Staten Island Ferry to an out of the way, overgrown


A secular gent, he’s burdened with doubt about the soothing breezes

of the Elysium Fields, where asphodels and poplars grow and the sun always

shines lit by its own stars. He holds on to the brick feeling its solidity as it gradually

grows as warm as his mother’s hand. The brick could be a mini grave marker he thinks,

suggestive of Jewish tombstones in Salonica—a church had used them to build

sidewalks and courtyards. (Rescuers have since restored them to their rightful place.)

His blurry eyes look up at the fair, frail, palaces of billowing bone-white clouds

searching for a sign of mother in the ethereal panorama of the nether world,

inspiring him to ask: How’s the weather up there? Do you have what to eat?

How are dad and my kid brother? Is Eddie Cantor still performing? Can he still

make your belly jiggle like jello, laughing so hard you almost pee in your pants?

A penumbral shadow diminishes sunlight as he savors the heft of the brick in his hand.

Brick, he muses, outlasts us all.