Friday, June 10, 2016

Three Poems by Ralph Monday

Libraries of the Mute

The seasons wave around like American
flags.  I turn with them feeling the mechanisms
                                      beneath the cogs that
                                      turn our bodies.

I return, not for an annulled revenge--but to
speak of the things I have seen.  I could have
                                      remained as a cosmos hub,
                                      black hole at the center,

but I come again as a decoder ring
because I know the virtuous hell that is lost.
                                      I will show you how to
                                     dream again as I dream

so that you might see how blue women stalked
the earth behind stone walls built by
                                     I will give you a dream

of herons, not babies flying through your legs,
of green hornets that know your blood,
                                    so that you too, like I,
                                    realize that you are the matriarch

of mammoths; with your breasts shape molten
steel into the stuff of ancient arms, of authority now.

Pull away the fogbank.  Alexander's library is
burning.  Know that you are born between
                                    feces and urine,
                                    that you are the pallbearer

of the maple, oak, pear, that your syllables have been
silenced by no more than leaves in an angry
                                    wind by those who look on
                                    love like a maggot's dream.

Silk tuxedoed hawks are your mates, sparrow nests
your wombs.  No stalemated superstitions can
                                    stop you, when you awake
                                    and realize that you, like I,

bare-footed walked the earth before Edison's recording,
before the Night of the Long Knives (Nacht der langen Messer),
                                    before the Andrews Sisters,
                                    before Peggy Hill,

before Ida Lupino, before Dolores Moran on bongos,
before the Beatles and the Stones.
                                    Then you will know
                                    Ragnorok, twilight of the gods

where in your death is birth.  Milk will flow from your
mouths, your hair turn to honey, your lips laugh
                                    at all the believed illusions--
                                    you will find your way home.

This Morning's Mirror

That rainy morning you said that you were
unhappy, your hair a steel-wool bouquet.
            Not surprising, your conjugal moods
            honed to mastery, this was no new
            opened ground.

One may as well expound on a theory of
heaven as find you happy, receptive, each
            morning a gauntlet where I would
            cast the bread upon the waters
            faster than light

in the hope that perhaps this day your
camera angles would be different, a
morning of sun and mirror and Milky Way
vision, a death-birth anointed by

that you would be the beauty in an Italian
postcard after World War II, sleek, bikini
             tanned on Mediterranean
             sands, affected by new reflection,
             like the beauty of silver-breasted

birches knocking in the wind.
No longer would you be a velvet vagabond, the
land would turn to praise,
loveliness would take root upon
the sky's moist floor.

But no, you could not be bribed to enter
a mausoleum of refusal--a rock for a
             pedestal, the black mirror
             cast shadowed skull trees
             wearing a necklace of bones.

The branches of the mind took you
to a living crypt, eternity slaughtered
             through Freudian plays,
             epaulettes of silence, and your
             thin, creosoted smile.

We Spoke

          I relit the fire from last night's
coals, the same way my grandmother
would precede everyone on cold mornings
in the mountains and make the house warm.

          Coffee made, we sat in the hot tub and
watched the falling snow mixed with sleet.
We talked under those lead skies, spoke through
the hot steam rising from the cups.

          We spoke of how human life is frailty
waiting for the last moment.

          We spoke of how when we were kids between
one Christmas and the next was an eternity
Now, the Christmas show begins at WalMart
almost as soon as it ended.

          We spoke of how when we were kids
at school there were only fist fights, girls
pulling hair.

          We spoke of holding on to pieces of the past
like knitting together a patchwork quilt,
waiting for the future.

          We spoke of time passing like a hand wave
from a train that would not stop.

          We spoke of coco cola costing a nickel and
pulled cold from the ice chest at the neighborhood

          We spoke of Moon pies, Mars bars thick around as a
baseball handle, fifty cent gas, the smiling store

          We spoke of how books formed us like a mold when
we were kids.

          We spoke of how there didn't used to be conspiracy

          We spoke of how there only used to be only three TV
channels, the story was objective, not entertainment,
the channels switched off at midnight with the national

          We spoke of when gentlemen and ladies were

          We spoke of when god was actual and church was
not a sacred social club.

          We spoke of not having much time left, to hoard
each second like a dragon guarding gold.

          We spoke of high school proms, weddings, divorces,

          We spoke of how the presidency used to be

          We spoke of mixing tapes where ever song told
our special story.

          We spoke of how now the stories are not the

          We spoke of holding on to everything that could
not be held.

          We spoke of remembering things past not as they
were, but how we wanted them to be.

          Then there was nothing but quiet, the snow
sifting through cedars where we looked at
each other and without speaking still spoke.

Ralph Monday is Associate Professor of English at Roane State Community College in Harriman, TN, and has published hundreds of poems in over 100 journals.  A chapbook, All American Girl and Other Poems, was published in July 2004.  A book, Empty Houses and American Renditions, was published May 2015 by Aldrich Press.  A Kindle chapbook, Narcissus the Sorcerer, was published June 2015 by Odin Hill Press.

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