One Soldier’s Day, in Pieces, Incline of the Heart, City War Zone
ONE SOLDIER'S DAY, IN PIECES
And then it was over. Just like that.
As quick as the storm that started.
A young girl says, "Hurry, Mommy!
The sky is turning black." People look
out from their New England porches.
Bunched purple iris, a waft of sweet
honeysuckle climbing the mail post.
At the intersection, a cop stops
a woman driving a red convertible.
The car roof still open, just before
the rain pours down in buckets.
When he first returned from Iraq,
there was trouble on the roads.
Unreported crashes. Impossible
to slow down. Real danger in
oncoming vehicles. Turn away
with hellish speed. Smash into
the wall. What else can a man do?
Keep from blowing up so many
in another second. The heart
pounding and the hound, who just
wanted a bone, walks slowly over
glass shards, sniffing for his master.
The letters were not coming together.
She could piece a few together, but not
enough to make words or read the page.
Learning to read. It took a long time.
Her brother says maybe it's like a foreign
language. Maybe her brain will get it
if she listens, hangs out for a while.
Eats ice cream downtown.
When do words fill in the blanks, the gaps?
One dead. The truck blown up. Four friends
missing. Not sure he still loves her. Sound out
the segments. Then put them back together.
Sounding each other out.
Rarely did words make sense
like tender or thigh, maybe
here, not there. They could
not read themselves together.
Longing yes, but the letters
stayed separate like night
and day or sleep and touch
under the blue silk comforter.
Bonded in high pitch disaster.
Something about order, crisis, intimacy.
Who can explain why he craved the platoon?
Now nothing but crying babies, boiling water.
Lots of heroin coming back. The fields full
of opium, easy trafficking. Van Gogh's red
poppies dusted over by sand winds sweeping
past tired farm hands. What looks bad in one
place is the market economy in another.
Stopping her for no good reason save that
her words and his were different each time.
He thought about it and did nothing before.
Now his siren stops this innocent woman.
There was thunder. Taken aback, he walks
around the car. Looks into the trunk.
Suggests she close the rooftop before
the rain gets the both of them.
Gnarled sounds, knotted stomach.
Returning is never the same,
even if hope brings fragments
together for an afternoon car ride.
Fierce winds, dark sky.
The landscape always changing,
like a pulsing siren, sudden storm.
Electric both inside and out.
INCLINE OF THE HEART
A red shingle home surrounded by oaks
dropping heavy with yellow leaves.
The color sharp enough to slide off boughs
like fresh wet paint or liquid honey.
There used to be a child care center in the house.
Tricycles outside. Circle games on the porch.
When it rained the little ones would sing.
Put their fingers one on top of the other making
a perfect spout for the itsy bitsy spider.
A boy hums one-handed on his bike. Goes round
in circles watching the cars for his friend who slides
flat on a skateboard down the inclined road.
The sheer joy in the white autumn dusk makes
dreams seem dusty and each path a slice to ride.
Behind the home bushes full of blue hydrangea,
smelling like fresh clean babies just before sleep.
The house quiet now. No lights on. It seems empty
but for someone playing a Brahms Concerto inside.
The porch screen door slightly ajar.
Each night like this. Quiet and dark.
Not even a candle by the keyboard,
as if seeing might quell emotion.
Beethoven's Pathetique shakes the pitch black.
A singular passion comes out the windows, sharp
as the road incline or gold dripping branches.
Sometimes a soldier comes to visit.
A black car, briefcase. One knock at the door.
CITY WAR ZONE
A collage of teen deaths
Yes they heard the cries.
He cried "Mama, Mama,"
again and again. Many heard
him. Saw the car. Did nothing.
Cries are common in the night.
Here, the young do not sleep,
but wander. Guns spit
bullets. Children drown
each other without speech.
Sit on the wrong step. Buy
chips at Leo's Market and
someone is down. "We hear
cries like this every night."
Two clay pots with red begonias.
A small cat curled between them.
Someone cooking lamb stew inside.
When his friend died fast between
smokes and a damn funny story,
he knew he would go soon.
Shot on his own front porch.
No gang connections. A good student.
Braided welcome mat by the door.
He followed his friend down an old,
familiar staircase. When he looked
back, his buddies were gone.
Her boyfriend is dead. Gunned down
graceless. Who is there to tell?
Windows and doors taped shut.
A crime scene now.
He was alone, no family to speak of.
The moon just a crescent with slim
comfort and no truth to be told.
Fathers' tears let loose from the sky.
A Sunday hymnal. The letters in each
name fall from broken street signs.
Children swim with the drowned.
The pool director says, "The chlorine took
the dead matter. It is safe and clean here."
As if death is material, not something
we swim in, no matter how high we lift
our heads above water.
No blanket piles soft enough for dreams now.
If cries are this common in the night,
well then all the birds have fled. A song
of despair sits in the trees instead.