Phantom Pastoral

by February 3, 2016 0 comments

Scenes from tomorrow,
Scenes from a borrowed diary,
The child is a series of patterns
Sown into a quilt,
His dagger is his name,
Eternal lash, the peasant’s hymn,
The bed of snow and soot,
The crypt where no dove lands,
The cinders fall,
The phantoms play with windows like pets.
The wrong side of the tracks awaits.
The movie departs from her myth,
These wings, divine, to embers fall,
Through us to the light all shadows come,
To us from the pale rehearsal we’ve passed,
The mirror reconstituted
Lapsing red in the lamps,
Sown into our terror the bright pageants we’ve escaped,
Sheep without skin walking circles,
Trapped in the railroad car and dice in the alley,
The vaudeville and sulfur go up in smoke,
The queen of chalk in her brothel costume,
The pure jewelry of the haves and the have nots
Eclipsed by the ghost peddler.
The factory filled with rusted stomachs–
The leather comes unstitched–
A crow–
Shells of wilted flowers watching–
From the ferris wheel she falls through guns and rain and concrete
Her voice composed of billiard hall whimpers,
The blood opens like a corset,
The pharmacy is always closed.

There is no way to spend your youth,
Running your fingers through your hair
To the new scar
Same as the first,
Your face unmarred and fair
Distant in its religious truth,
It was nothing more than it was.
A freight car rocks the town to sleep,
Old man or child like a rabbit in a box
Rolling beyond mountains, rivers,
In your vigil the meadow will never touch the sunset,
The smoke pretends to sleep inside your hands
Waiting for the wind to save it.

Finally you have learned
The face of gold
Contains only menace in its passage,
Standing at the garage,
Winter families at the laundromat,
Miracles neglect them.
That boy is always up too late,
He will become a cop
Or die.
It’s all for hire.

The Christ and the barbed wire,
The musical cigar, wineskin,
Jewel encrusted sirens:
The horizon drying on the factory roofs,
Winking lies at the hero’s funeral–
Last supper of cheeseburgers and milkshakes.
Mother was fair,
Papa died in his rocking chair:
They were the lucky ones.

Forgotten on the bottom rung of a hospital bed:
Is this what it takes to be forgiven?
Unremembered son; every blade is the last, every glance.
Nobody should die young,
But you make the paper.

No more wanted photos
And no hero’s return.

We reach for the mirage that cast us off
As the dressing room consumes her changing.
What can you teach perfume?

What was and isn’t still awaits,
Says a street urchin in an amulet of paradise,
I read all your letters by fog
So my ghost would remain haunted.
Give me your veil–
I once had hope.

The crossed stars on a boy painted with scars.
His crown lit by the unborn part of town;
Who was he? Fires that never burned,
Dragging his fortune like a prince
Who never leaves his war.
Scripture recited in empty bars.
The body of the host
Sealed as the petals of a stillborn rose.

Dancing in the ash tray she begs for time.
Stranger in a sash of rubble
Who says no one will be absolved.
Their crimes still tick, revolve.
The puzzle pieces still fit the storm,
Your wan welcome,
Give up your spell,
Your blood still stands,
Songs in the temple of the hourglass,
Childhood friends never last,
They are all left behind in the sound of a promise,
The sound that never heals.

The veil asks for more blood
And never makes a sound.
The other self,
The other requiem,
The stray cat sleeping by the neon sign
Begins to tick
With fingerprints the mirror left.
You try to disappear
In the dim search of a streetlight,
And constantly between,
The bejeweled vine
Draping the procession–
Watch them totter through the mist.
We never learn the dirge.
Behold the dove
Flown from your touch.
Behold old age and concession.

The crooked soldiers on the porch
Betting their pay,
The rotting cherries turn to earth,
Their boots shine like lighter fluid,
Their cigarettes court the street lamps
Before they lay dead in their sheets.

Every alley has its jewels.

The sidewalk never ends
In a child’s diary.
The water towers of a thousand Saturdays.
Twilight pounding like a heart on the railroad tracks.
You’ll always be down on your luck.
There will always be another card game,
Midnight, awaiting the bare teeth of a dog.
Legends of a switchblade, a valiant truck,
Chain link that never rusts.
Teeth the soil will rot out,
The rich boy and the hood,
Fire only brings the night nearer,
Fire only brings us nearer to the night.
After the mill
A girl chews her lips in a checkered skirt.
Like dust from the tires she let go.
She holds a jagged bottle to her knuckle, says,
Marry me, I don’t care if the ring’s made of brass.
You run like the whiskey on your breath through your blood
Searching for the life you lost you want to stay lost.
Your brother in the light of the oil drum,
He can’t care but he’s all you got.
You’re second, kid:
Second hand, second rate–
You’ll never find justice
No matter how many rich bastards you bleed.

The morning sparks above the bar,
5:35 to Windrixville,
A steeple in the weeds.
Mice in the walls,
Owls asleep in the snow.
The dream passes in other dreams.
There is nothing more than what was:
Empty bellies at sunrise and harvest.
Is that still all there is?

And you remember her,
Running her fingers through your hair,
The car is fast,
And we are the lost ones, they say,
Faceted with shadows.
We are alone and will never belong.
Blessed by the poor and the noble
To tragedy they long to extol,
We enact the tragedy’s law with each kiss,
Each signet parched,
Wild tapestries of flame
At the school dance.
She was my thread to the world
As it collapsed.
I watched her fall with it.

Men who find themselves in crowd and lantern,
We fugitives die on the run,
Transparent roses the wind cannot touch
Scattered through the curtains and the cellar sun,
All beginning to haunt
For their vacant web’s yesterday,
The mirages we cast off reach beyond us,
The many rooms to change into.

The shacks of an innocent age
Frail as they see themselves
In the puddles after the rain.
Sacred as the fall, the chastity of it all
A lie yet sooth,
Oathed and sworn by a star under the coal,
The fury pressed into a nail
Hammered upon the grave faded film
Held in his hand:
A dove the first time it incandesces.

And this the last ballroom we can forget:
A warehouse filled with amber light,
The wrong side of innocent knives
Finding what must never be bought:
The soul’s last wound,
For you so poor,
The blood of your costume
Flows into her’s.

editors note:

All live a hero’s life, all made sacrifice; body and blood. – mh clay

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