SECTION TEN
POETRY PAGE THREE

sm
COLUMN 106, JUNE 1, 2004
(Copyright 2004 The Blacklisted Journalist)

HOW THE VICTORS WRITE THEIR HISTORY

Robert Klein Engler lives in Chicago and teaches at Roosevelt University. His books are available from amazon.com.

The balding orb that is this bony world 
declines--what tracks there are, lead out not in.
We wonder if the seeds of summer curled
in ice, are safe from winter's discipline.

It stormed all day and storms into the night.
Please hold our frigid souls within your hands 
to comfort us. Bathe us in a bowl of light, 
your sweet lagoon that laps in warmer lands.

The halcyon days are past. They warned us, so.
That lover lost, goes on his separate way.
He will erase our names with rags of snow,
while we attend the graves and come what may.

Our reach from ice to ice came at such cost,
and now we trolley grace from lines of frost.  ##

* * *

BEDTIME STORY

Mother and father are calling me.
Beyond the sky, across the sea,
mother and father are calling me.

It's not to supper that they call,
it's not for cake or playing ball,
nor dancing in a mirrored hall.

"Away, away," their voices say,
There is no time to pout or stay. 
"Just follow us, we know the way."

Their echoes call from out the deep,
to warn there's nothing more to keep 
and soon we join them in their sleep.

For all that blooms in time will go
where worries melt like April snow.
Don't be a stubborn child, let go.  ##

* * *

SONATA FOR ANOTHER WORLD
on the 50th anniversary of my father's death

After my father died, his broken violin stayed 
in the basement until a flood came and warped 
the wood so much mother had to throw it out.
I saw it in the garbage with its few strings 
curled up like strands of his once black hair. 

We had floods like that in the city, then. 
Brackish water gushed up from the grid 
of the basement drain like oil, and sewage 
belched into our lives, while sheets of rain 
were wrung from the gray and lightning sky.

I never heard my father play his violin, 
and yet there should be songs for those like him, 
the ones who could not get the world right, 
the ones who floated on the murky tide of days, 
then lifted by the waves, they drowned.

My student, Philip, has the same black hair 
my father had. He studies how to pull the music 
down from heaven with his bright hands.
His violin can cauterize once more our open sore.
Around again that fire comes just like before.

The days are well near spring, and now the snow 
plowed into temporary cliffs begins to melt. 
What are these dregs of memory poking out? 
The figs of paper bags, a rag that was a shirt, 
and broken twigs that blindly reach for light.

All manner of dross floats up from a dream,
like the leather sleeves of Napoleon's dead army. 
Those twisted fingers reach up from frozen mud 
after their long retreat from Russia's snow, 
and scratch the air on which our songs travail.

I thought as a child my father's dead arms 
would rise out of our ghostly coal bin, too, 
and reaching for his absent violin, 
drag me down into the silent well of death.
Instead, we burnt that coal to keep us warm.

The weary wheel their wagons and their load,
then, stop surprised! A moment turns a life.
Philip plays, I listen, and half a century folds.
He who is, may be as he who could have been.
To know this wound, is to know who heals it.

I wake early, while dawn still struggles in the dark,
and hope again a music for our broken hearts,
a requiem out of time, unlike any love we know.
Too long we miss the home where we belong. 
Come father, play; these words are for your song.  ##


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