Summer 2016 - THE POTOMAC
The Old Men By the River
You can always find the old men.
They drink coffee at the truck stop
and talk with loud opinions on politics,
stale as yesterday's smoke, with jokes,
and chuckles held down by tucked chins.
In China they gather at the apothecary,
in ancient times by the city gate.
In Anguangeo they lean on the stone wall
by the river, watch the butcher boy,
covered in blood, struggle up the hill
with a fresh carcass, he grinning.
He has a job, and he is a boy.
They tell us to get in the truck
where the women and children huddle,
cluck and shiver against the threats
of a new day. The high mountain air
is as crisp as fall apples,
and pine scent sneaks around
and down along the mountain curves.
We climb in the truck.
The morning jingles with a new topic:
we two women, ¿solitas? ¡No! ¡No!
Later, the boys with the nags
lead us higher and higher,
cannot understand about us, ask
again, again as we make the hard climb.
Alone? This topic may have hovered there
by the river for the next days, hovered
in the air until apocalypse came,
and we, alone, the gone ones.
The gathered ones will change, turn,
dry leaves blowing off, turn and swirl,
replaced, and we all keep circling,
making very little difference
to the roundness of the sun.
So David danced naked before the Ark
and Micah was ashamed.
The new lover skips stones
to trail ever–smaller splashes
until the merry skimming ends.
Whole crowds scream and writhe
to an ear–splitting and common beat,
forget that feet are meant
to touch down and tread the earth.
Micah asks how wise is such self–losing.
How far will we crawl to find it?
He tried to escape
when the mower approached.
His brittle carapace clattered
against the twisted wire
of the fence we neighbors share.
The metal sprinkler clanked
against him, once, as I tugged
at the green serpent hose,
not the sound of the big rock
I expected, and he scrunched,
deeper into his hiding
as I touched his shell.
I keep the gate closed.
Now he stretches, head up
testing air, reptilian legs
extended, shuffles off
as the mother and son cats
bury their heads
into the feeding dishes.
I do not know if we are friends,
but I hope. One study reports
that carp are the stupidest
of creatures, remember nothing
for more than seven seconds,
but mine dash to me
in a golden flourish as I stand
at the end of their pond,
flakes or pellets in hand.
I had a comfortable relationship
with two huge banana spiders
one summer, their terror changed
to tolerance as they tended
their sticky webs.
Eden's garden will not return,
but it is lovely to pretend.