June 2, morning
We started with a line item analysis,
then they backed us into a corner.
Returned to our place of safe-keeping
some of us were glad to give thanks.
If that's not enough, have some more,
pile it on till the tendency becomes apparent
to all. You can, if you like, veto it,
Sybil—the waves are calling us now,
and will soon readily appear. This text
occurs in real time, then gets doctored.
When I think of you, it's your house
I remember best, its comforting appeal
as should be offered an astral traveler
or lame salesman going door to door.
We had more room in us then, places to spare,
weren't so exacting about the vegetables
and the order of saving graces. We splurged.
“Heigh-ho, the tolling bells” was but a game.
But mostly we mustered in orange, heads
high, and the clatter of boots a mantra.
When or if I come back, I'd like to sit
beneath the trees, facing you, trying
to make the blanket levitate and spin.
Odd how all the years between us
circulate in snaky, lacing patterns
now here, now there, like hushed pavilions,
those tropical shells, the city park
enclosed in darkness, a beach
where the past sprouts and fades,
a closet abounding in spent footwear,
autos designed for convenience
and conveyance, and something more,
a conspiratorial indulgence, keen
words clanging in the ion-charged air.
It's all shellacked, as if seen through
a protective bubble, longingly,
but also freshly minted as greenbacks
issued to the opposing armies
sequestered just outside town, by
the lake where you summered, heedless.
More details have become retrievable
recently, more than eloquent
in amusing the handy dramaturg
whose task is to shape our manner
into a becoming study. How loose
our ends, shabby our decisions,
unrecognized our loves. Don't we all
have better things to do? You should know,
Catullus, how well the mouth pronounces
its heated rejoinder, how ably the tongue
renounces these comforting fictions.
Strapped to a saddle, bound for Kansas
or over the Oregon Trail, with plains
and mountains like the verses of a song,
we can only hope to arrive as the ship sails.
Tall in the saddle, I should say, like
Duke or Burt or Clint, spirits gripped
by the subtle pretense that in seeing them
we see what they see. Clouds are coming
to fill up the tub, a passing billboard
inspires passion, and the VW ascends
further up the steep incline the longer
the song plays, but it always drops sooner
or later, like a bowling ball into the gutter.
She’s glad to keep talking anyway,
and the later sonatas are not for her,
they're arranged for mandolins
and chimes, a fitful violin,
receding flute. In these temperate climes
and desperate times, it may be you
the stars have hurried for, but now
even your unassuming hopes char
in the bonfire we've made to celebrate
the coming feast, slow roasted,
easily consumed. Only the devil knows
why we bother, his game deeper than most,
steady as the rock of ages, glimmering
and vast as a whale at sea whose tail
makes retired witnesses of us all. Know
how much it hurts me to say this—
you who stood with seeing eyes where
others were blinded, you who tasted
blood, the oil of anointing, a stream
of piss, who sheltered the fallen
and took up cudgels for the weak,
stood in the rain for hours, slept in your chair,
walked confused through the house
of mirrors to find the exit, there waiting
on the other side, you who when fabled
trances failed looked squarely at the pit,
giddy with the surge of joy in adversity,
and glimpsed each time where the rivers
meet, gripped by the force of perceiving,
aflame with an adept's vision if not
precise knowledge of the runes,
showed me how to manage the keys,
speak words written in steam, squinted
beside me in rough weather, a laugh
of surprised impertinence as if
silver pebbles ringing in a glass chalice—
we weren't better than the others,
only different, or not even that, at last,
but don't listen to me. All I know
for sure is I could never live like that.
©Donald Brown 2010/2013