Watched while this dark, untimely hole was dug and sniveling clouds contrived a maudlin face. The dead, I trust, don’t mind–tucked in that snug; but numbed, I dare not the wriest grimace or thinnest smile to shame this tedious rite; stand, tearless, soaked in pain for your bones, distraught by impudence–the chiding slight of rain streaking cold cheeks of graven stones, staining heaped-up soil–scant to fill that pit– with platitude and flesh melding with ground. Dull words, my black suit–nothing here seems fit. The dust I came to bid farewell is drowned. I’ll come alone when sunrise burns this veil, your red carnation on my white lapel.
Through this knothole my old eye squints where careless children, sunlit in their shade, swing somewhere up to somewhere down, on pegasus ponies laugh and turn from nowhere back to nowhere round, and juggle spheres, moon-perfect, on the run.
Long since I danced among them like a prince, spun drunk on whirling circles, balls, and wheels, then reeled outside the gate, mislaid the key, and spiraled far away from there...
I flapped audacious arms at heaven, raced with light and challenged suns, rode Saturn’s carrousel, and swung from Jupiter’s balloons-- until, immensely drunk and lost, I cannot fledge the smallest wing to fly the fence back in.
They are still there, the porches, but nobody sits on them anymore. Like hobby horses running off, the rocking chairs thumped away, took along their squeaks and neighbors.
Gone, too, the creaking swings have fallen or been taken down, storm-swung into yesterday. Maybe we wore them out, pumping and grunting to make them go. Our feet didn’t touch the floor.
Years follow chairs and swings when I walk past memories, closed doors and dark windows, empty porches. It is summer. It is August in another year, still hot, still humid. No one rocks in the shade. There is no one to wave, to speak, to say hello. Nobody offers a frosty glass of tea.
Of earth now, these twenty-one, drifted here by deadly tides, patiently, at supine attention, dressed right in single rank, turn to follow the turning sky. The silent pines stand watch On dark boughs the wind thrums its dirge.
No tears fall from the sun's blind eye. The warm kiss of sunlight nor the soft caress of shadow will quicken their blood or tempt them from their post. Erased from their faces at last the fine calligraphy that spelled their names. Only curious flies braille that faded tracery, reading no human history, no lore.
Nor will they read this: Their harmless games of childhood had but lately turned to war, that rigid school of pass or fall. Teachers now, in vacant rooms; nowhere on earth will an ear attend their clarion silence or hear the eloquent lesson their obedient postures compose.
Already the sentinel pines sprinkle upon them needles they have thrown away.
(Prompted by a remembered scene from the Army’s brutal campaign in Italy during World War Two
When I was little, they said, I was always asking why, that I must be part tomcat I was so doggone curious. Listen to my brother at suppertime: Here, Tom! Here, Tom! Come eat! My name wasn’t Tom. It was Jim. If I asked why, my sister’d say Meow.
Sure, I learned a lot of stuff, but I never found out the why of anything important, like what’s the meaning of it all.
All my life I have been asking why and I don’t know why I didn’t just quit asking. I never got a straight answer. I don’t think there is one.
If I live long enough I guess I’ll die, everybody does–need I ask? And when I do, you know what? I’m going to ask Something why. If I am part tomcat, maybe by the ninth time around I’ll know.
Last edited by jim turner on October 1st, 2010, 2:21 am, edited 1 time in total.
Friends Jack and Joe fought for some unknown reason they should’ve forgot but didn’t, as they ought. In that rainy season their boots got muddy and their noses bloody but they had mucho macho fun till Joe pulled out a gun. Jack was too tired to run so spread his hands and pled, Joe! Don’t! But Joe did and shot him dead. He wept unmanly tears in bed and said to his late friend’s wife, I’ll have to live with what I did for the rest of my friendless life.
I'll not be known for blithe skylarkish leaping and singing sweetly down from cloudy heights. Friends more than likely will think of me sleeping and possibly dreaming aquiline flights. I've heard some fish and squirrels claim they fly, but nothing rises when I flap my arms-- work of magic's wings--writing on the sky-- and I've forgot, or never knew the charms. Crow-tongued, I perch upon my stool and squawk; if roused, will hop iambic pantomime; and squat, nights, like a sun-blind owl and talk till sparrows, stirred by morning, chirp in rhyme. Heavier than bird I am, and must walk upon the ground, just one foot at a time.
Lightning pierced my eyes, and I withstood the thunder’s blows, but raindrops bigger than pennies struck me and I knelt, thankful, then lay on the dead, wet grass, making the motions of an angel in snow.
I heard her scream before she leaned to my side. “I thought you were...” “Dead?” “Yes.” “Never less,” I said and pulled her down beside me. “My hair!” she cried “Never more lovely,” I stroked it away from her face, and laughing, there on the living lawn, we made our own thunder and lightning, in the rain.
A storm of guns awoke the wind, who yawned to clear away the smoke, then found nowhere a tree to bend but stumps like work of thunderstroke and roots, unearthed, burned black and bare, embracing broken dolls no child would keep.
War being none of her affair, she sighed, lay down, and fell asleep.
Unhoused, untrousered and untutored, unpossessed of tweed or needle, wishing himself and spouse accoutered warmer, Adam coolly schemed to wheedle wool from goats. “I’ll sharpen shears to clip them with, and twist in wire an eye to thread through.” Freshman fears grew, for Adam knew not fire nor furnace, iron ore nor coke. He found no wire, made no sharp steel, and dreamed no loom nor spinning wheel-- though close to fire he came with smoke and blisters. “It’s that snake, I grieve, still at it. Knitting crooked hitches in my way. Meddler! I’ll never weave worsted to stick good stitches in.” Though long he labored, up and at ‘em, better dressed that freezing Adam were those shaggy kids–a Jonesy sin each paid for dearly, so naive. For kilts, quick Adam fleeced them, skin and wool, then wooed his shivering Eve with nanny fur. “The latest style, for you alone,” slick Adam sayed. Technology would take a while, so they debuted in ready-made And, save the goat, who bared his back, no one snickered, “They’re off the rack.” And, save the goat, whose back was bared, no one noticed and no one cared.
(One of my pet themes– technological illiteracy. Who among us could make a needle–starting from scratch?)
A square cubed, my narrow cell; four mirrored walls, ceiling, floor reflecting reflections, images of self, repeated, infinite, meaningless. No window looks upon another world, no door lets me out, lets no one in; touching shares only its touch. I am afraid of shattered glass.
Else a sphere surrounds me, weightless at center, its surface the inside of my translucent skin, a scrim where grotesque shadows dance. If I touch the bubble it will burst. I will be lost among strangers, brothers I have never known...
Am I at heart my heart, dry, shrunken prune that never was a plum, lying to stethoscopes, "thump, swish, thump, swish," sending dead stones tumbling in the river of my blood, the whispered rhythm of pulse in my pillow, sleepless, dreamless? Dark thoughts haunt darkness. I hunger for dawn I do not want. In your own tomb, dawn, sleep late.
Stale air and old bones tremble with tempting voices of poets, speaking, singing of love. I have never known what they mean. I am afraid that if I understand. something within me will break.
Last edited by jim turner on November 28th, 2010, 8:08 pm, edited 1 time in total.