He sits in his own dark in Grand’s blue ladder back rocker
on the creaking porch planks overlooking the black lake.
Pine trees stand near, the paper birch, the black birch,
the weeping willows, maple, oak, elm
do whatever it is trees do when folks try to imagine they are listening
or not, commenting or not, dreaming the deep dream or not.
The black sieve of sky is moonless, behind the far away holes,
fireflies too numerous to count, or one fire,
my young mind plays, are we sifting day from night, night from day, are
we lightless like the new moon?
He’s talking. He‘s a WWII vet and comes by his nihilism honestly:
things seen, persons lost, the lies.
He continues. He is Earnest Hemingway, and John F’ing Wayne.
He is K, and Watt, and Lear, and old Elsinore’s ghost.
He church keys the cap off another longneck, the only earthbound
light is the red ember at his lip.
He’s the coal and the furnace and the furnace tender.
A self-immolating fire swallower smoldering.
He’s complaining really, though in a quiet philosophical way,
the world or perhaps just his small chunk of it
was not what was promised, expected, imagined, hoped for.
How well I later learned that song and sang its sad refrain,
but at my young age his sadness was his own and
mine was still safely waiting a short way off.
I nodded or deliberately shook my head on cue
throughout that prolonged Viva Voce.
I was the mirror of the lake, the darkness of the woods,
I was the starlight that illuminated nothing but itself.
And here’s the beauty of metaphor because if I was
the mirror of the lake, he was rippling my surface
with his longneck wisdom, if I was the darkness of the woods,
he was the flash lightning of a struck match, if I could be
starlight, he could be the black hole, the remnant of a star that forever
swallows all light, all matter, all philosophies…