by Darryl Branning
Near abandonment, ravaged
by time, a farmhouse among
the desert flotsam. Oilcloth curtains
fluttering through glassless windows
moving with the drift of tumbleweeds.
Broken wagon wheel, leaning
beside a rusty shovel, matching
the color drained exterior.
Scattered inside--coffee grinder,
flour-bin, one faded tan boot,
pans and tins. Depressed and
oppressed by what must be left
behind--with her skin pale and exposed
to elemental forces, ghostly under
gloss-black hair--she awakens
and stretches within the unmoving
past. Granma's salon dress tossed
onto a narrow cot--freed
from wooden confinement where
it always was--unless taken out
to entertain a little girl--imprisoned
there since the time Granpa
took her away from it all.
Father's toy rifle, roughly
hewn, polished by years of hunting
Indians--his success stands beside
him on the wobbly bed stand,
framed in tarnished brass.
And Mother's black hair never
lost it's shine, nor ever got grey
(she remembers Father saying once)
She came to live here years ago,
and left when the time was right. The
past would be locked away with
dress and picture. An unopened
bottle--unneeded by Father
because he had finished himself
with the one before--would go
on his grave. The toy gun
she would make as an offering
to a mother whom she could never meet.
Granma and Granpa had her
tears. A trail for each of them.
floating in limbo
distracted by our own thoughts
there is nothing else
A Glow in Darkness
I wake at three a.m., coughing--result of an
existential experiment. When breathing
resumes I continue the experiment--packets
of nicotine delivered to hungry neuro-receptors;
a comforting glow burns in the darkness.
It used to be an adrenalized heart, a crawling
chilled spine, and muscles locked by unheard
whispers in the early morning--waking to see him
standing there, horrible and seductive--foxfire
decay glowing from deep inside his empty skull--leaning
on his scythe and watching patiently without eyes.
I would ask,
Of what use is life if awareness ends? He never
said a word.
He took my grandfather
a piece at a time--diabetes, stroke, prostate
and skin cancer--brain tumor. Was it kindness
or sadism, this slow retrogression? Having been
prepared--the funeral a simple intrusion--an unwanted
though necessary duty--goodbye to a man who has
already left, and a family brought together by death.
Death brought grief to an end.
I have seen him reaping on airplanes and buses, stalking
children on playgrounds, and nodding 'hello' to
hospital visitors. He is familiar now--an annoying
neighbor. He lights my tobacco with a skeletal hand;
a pleasant burning inside. Fuck you, I say. But he
only nods politely--silent--showing his eternal grin.
There is no life which is not lived
without the loss of innocence.
Wisdom from destruction. Novice
understanding falling away. Once lost
never lost again.
The taste of life--hear me
scream with every slipping moment
passing minutes searching
pleasure: food, drink, elusive love.
Raging against the innocence.
Innocence becomes ignorance.
Ignor it and rage against
life's glorious slide.
With growing age I find myself
searching for wisdom--finding none.