The man with cold sockets and empty eyes
is crouched, his backbone snapping terse remarks
in mocking praise of his hard-bought old age.
The empty man with wrinkled lips and fixed
eyes staring through the limpid rain-washed glass,
is clutched by molded plastic from below,
nestling blackened fingernails amongst
his hound’s forgotten hairs and grimy bones.
His room is not a room but brutal thoughts
from distant places drawn to cuddle him
until his heart stops stirring memory.
He waits and watches past persistencies…
“I see past scenes congealed in liquid time:
in our old home, my father rules the world
and lets glimpses of my past appear and
freeze me; it is as always—hate between
the two of us—he is lord over what
is real, criticizing my wish to be
more than a clutter of old flickerings—
his stark and sinister repose at home,
voiceless thoughts in water-streaming walls,
a nest-like kapok couch, and sand-drip lamps.”
“The somber grasp of mildewed cloth is still
within my mind, replete with lace. Its clutch
is cold, dusty with old suns, wet with light
refracted through the rains. Translucent skins
stretched on wooden frames for eyes; each night is
searched for hopeful escape from crazing fear
and constant change. My patron’s muttering maw,
lips—spitting words and smoke through a cigar,
grinning, pointed, rotten teeth—contort to
tell stories I never wanted known …”
“‘Your birth occurred three times, my son, and each
poor child demanded change. Your first, a pig
with visage furred in black, we strung from ear
to ear and waited for your matter to
go dull. The next, a snake, was colored black
with spiraled carmine hoops; we took the skin
and burnt it, waiting for your third.
You were the third and most unfortunate, damned
to death in life. No curiosities
left me, I lost all interest in your being.'”
“‘Your simple mother went, with gauze and glass,
to catch, she said, some scrod in the close vale
that lies beyond the vine-enshrouded pass—
those dogs like spiders—blasted chunks of trees.
Before she passed, so swollen, sliced, and blanched,
she told me all she saw in that miasmal
place. Gray waters hovered, clotted, in that
bleak, wasted cut. Silverfish flew through
the mists and used their scythe-like fins to shred
and poison. She shivered and bled in my arms.'”
“‘When you were ten we sat upon the porch
of this slump-shouldered shack for weeks on end.
The fields of wheat, once golden star-touched wands,
each seeded head perfection in itself,
then turned to black spore fungus as we watched
it spread its pox until each single stalk
became a swirl of putrid verdigris
quite like an unpent sea of sporing molds.
The waves would never touch our house but sprayed
the unbound foam our way and sickened you.'”
“My eyes, blinded inward from present storms
by silver mirror drops within my skull,
can see the image of my past alone,
which was so glorious in contrast to
this life that I cannot resist the warmth
of it. The mossy calm. The rains and suns.
The thought and not the feel are all I have.
I do what I must to eat and drink.
I dream and await my patron’s memories.
I know my dream and shed my mottled skin.”
The watchman, spending time withdrawn, timeless
with clocks and punch cards, leads his dog through pipes
and cauldrons, listens as the liquids spill through
silver tanks to rusted railcars, watches
moonlight, twists a watch key in the pouched clock.
He shuffles to the wash room for a slow hour’s rest.
The man with icy sockets sits, drinks some
coffee from a thermos, strokes his mongrel,
stares through midnight rain and lightning, grabs his
knees, clasping his calves in the wrinkled palms
of his fists; his fœtal softness in an armchair,
seeing his shoulders touched by father’s hands.
© me, 1975, previously unpublished