It’s been a long time. My five-year old son says
it’s been an evening of accidents
as another toy train derails
or my daughter kicks up the wooden tracks as she darts
to answer the doorbell. In moments you imagine
becoming unmoored you wish we could pass on
the wind we suppose to praise
for its song its voiceless voice soughing
or convey the spring leaves caught
in unwinding revelry. The morning reveille.
A monad. In ‘1.08 ± 0.14 billion years.’ What sounds
in the wooden chattering.
The branch lines clattering. Is there
‘a steady storm
of correspondences.’ What echoes.
Echoes in the clapping.
I could have been an arborist. Tending ash and elm in the old eastern
forest. Or migrating trees from zone to zone. Instead
I am an ironworker by name. A blacksmith by guild. If we believe
in beginnings. Binding. Bending. To the will. If we believe
in words. As body. As organism. As organ. As tissue. Vestigial
as vital. I am from a famous line of learners. Too.
Teachers. Too. ‘No lay off
do I put forward. Yesterday in the sweltering
heat the clink and clang of a muffler dragging
along the street brought my attention beyond ‘to bear’
upon a neighbor’s three-year-old child wandering
along the middle median shoeless and eating
purple echinacea petals as cars
motored up and down the road. What have I learned.
Urgently. Sparks bursting. Hovering.
Bounding. Dimming. In all seriousness.
We crave the reckoning we crave. Drifting
toward oneness. Obligation. The vague trees
flee from us and return. As I hurl myself
down the stairs. When the wind dies.
Even when I know the names. I am
your great doorway. Now. Can we.
Now. Hold hands. Now. Look both ways. Now. Cross
the street. As if over river bottom. Wait together
on the old limestone stoop as the gray lid
of nimbostratus clouds
begins to close and seal out the sun.
And. Yesterday. Another yesterday of
remembrance. An afghanistan war vet up the block
played taps in the rain while his wife
stood under a royal blue and white striped umbrella
and filmed his mourner’s kaddish on her phone to post
for friends and family. Later. The sun shone
upon the gleaming yard
still filled with catching cobwebs with scatterings
of glass bottles from the baptists before us
and down on lightburne a car spun
another car around and into a fire hydrant. The street
a hidden revelation of a chain linked disaster and neglect.
It feels sinister to say. In both directions. The diminishment
and aggrandizement of suffering.
Of parting. Where there is purpose. Where is there purpose.
Redeem me. Later. I stayed
with the old grandfather too—how do we take his keys—
holding a blood-soaked towel to his forehead
as we sat—another we—on the curb together
feeling the gentled animal rising within us.
Despite the finely creased grey polyester pants
and plaid short sleeved button down.
Face mask askew. Hanging from an ear with his hearing aid.
The whipping wind
returning and riffling
through our dead hair. Later. After
drawing the turquoise and yellow
floral curtains. As the earth rotates. My four-year old
daughter asks what does inky darkness mean. The plagues
fascinate and appall. Capture.
The children. And all our yesterdays and tomorrows join
like river to sea to rain to river. Again.
And should we choose some direction some action
or course of being to be a return
on history. To walk through and through
the doorways of our many selves. To make
the temporal. Spatial.
To tie. The ends. The beginnings. Together.
Bow and do not turn. Understand. The look
is not longing. ‘Know before whom you stand.’
Goes the warning—‘here I am,
signed, sealed, delivered.’ The tree rings tell us.
The severity of the drought. The lungs. Speak to. The inescapable flames.
The ancient sea of us
leaving behind pillars of micro-plastics.
Why are we not clouds
seeded with righteousness ready to let loose a flood
upon the earth. For whom. Do we rain. For what. Do we pause
our beginning. The lit lips
that open to light our names across the sky. The lifted sword.
Who should we depend upon. The boy in the celestial spacebasket
hiding among corn stalks. Comics again. Already
a medium of exchange. Transference. A market. Should I say
they were worth a shekel for the sake of argument
the white stones and to clarify the angle
of some strange hate and vicious conspiracy. It all passes
through me. The afternoon air
with its green filings
of oak and sweet gum. The abandoned
building’s blackened stairwell
on the empty corner lot
next to the hardware store
leading into the open air ‘the room of night’
or a wall standing amidst the concrete tumble
of other walls after the butcher shop’s unexpected collapse.
Will you find yourself speaking or speechless
as you enter through the frame
that resists its stature. The revved engines and black smoke clears
the air of suspicion. For clarity. The lit trees
add ‘shade to shade.’ Now. Down by the tracks.
The cars and trucks stacked like cordwood
a mercedes on a chevy on a datsun on cadillac
in newark pastures of metal glass plastic rubber
that await the crusher. And rain
will come again softly at first as faint blessing
soft as fallen pine needles.
And later. Sharp as shrapnel. Dirt turns
to mud. Sun. Then. ‘Mud to dirt.’
And finally. As if. This were my closing argument. Light years.
Emptied cosmos turning. And.
Will you looking back see us through it all.
Will you know us. Will you ask. Will you reveal.
Will you remember. Are you waiting
for the heat and ash to shift
down upon us. Or has the great expanse of your love gone cold.
The nerves numb. The laws adrift. Not exactly. Asleep. And will you
now assent. To be
—is that a prayer a technology—everything.
To have everything that withers and burns
sk/etched upon your metaphorical heart.
DANIEL BIEGELSON is the author of the book Of Being Neighbors (Ricochet Editions) and the chapbook Only the Borrowed Light (VERSE). He currently serves as Director of the Visiting Writers Series at Northwest Missouri State University as well as an editor for The Laurel Review. His poems have appeared in or are forthcoming from Denver Quarterly, DIAGRAM, Grist, Interim, Puerto del Sol, The Shore, & The Spectacle, among other places.
HOWIE GOOD‘s handmade collages have appeared or are forthcoming in Blue as Orange, Scapegoat, and other online publications, including MAYDAY. The collages are intended as a rebuke to the lifeless perfection of photoshopped images. They are also intended to provoke an authentic response by combining images in a way that challenges old habits of seeing.