—From the vast annals of world literature,
we choose our ancestors.—
(Stephen Henighan in,
When Words Deny the World)
It was a loveless topography,
concrete containing green blade pools,
sun aging clay with drought—
come out, come out,
the sun is setting, come out.
The dark didn’t rise or set
in the milk box world,
yet everything was better,
except the immigrant dreams.
Dreams went to the old marketplaces,
sat in the old sun, reading rerun news,
saw scrawny villages in clouds
strangled by a flat horizon,
played too familiar pickup stix
political games with emotions.
It was always sandcastle against
wave, neither able to sustain
And word scurried like rats—
hiding in rippling barn day
school days, cheating the milk
from breakfast, tearing
the flesh from ideals
drunk and dead in gutters
attended by pallbearer Queen’s Anne lace,
biting with winter’s teeth,
biting into the facades.
It was the age of shape-shifting
personas, page by page
becoming and receding, to become again—
sandcastle man standing against
a plague of rats, sandcastle man
wavering in the knowledge of hands,
young hands, willing hands.
I’m a man with arthritic hands,
the circles I spin are small, comfortable
circles. I’m a man with arthritic hands,
in pain, I’m a man afraid of storms
on a cold Atlantic, I’m a man afraid of rats,
content to rock in the comfort
of a rhyme, rock and sip iamb.