Treasure Island

Theresa Haffner

(August 25,1945 / Plainwell, Michigan)

Different Drum


distant at first
the sound wavering
in the air
carried on a faint
afternoon breeze
that eddies and shifts
mistaken for sounds
of traffic, obscured
by car horns or children
playing
then once more it clears
and sound waves deliver
what can only be
a distant cadence
on a different street
borne by the wind,
now fading out-
-or do my ears deceive me?

transfixed on the street
I lean against my
crutch tips
only a specter of
my former self
a ragged figure
dressed in black
my head tilted to one side
my ears listening
trying to make out the
sound of distant drumming

the breeze blows dirty air
from the overcast street
black folds of my skirt
flapping loosely about my legs
like a flag

What will you say to them
that will make them understand?
What will you tell them
that they will not forget?
How will you convince them
to change their minds?

Teach me, that I may
learn to teach them.
Teach me, so that I will know.

Touch me, that I might
touch you.
Stir my heart, that I might
stir your soul.

Tell me, so that I will remember
So that they will remember
So that you will not forget.

I cannot tell the branches
to scratch the sky
I cannot tell the trees
to scream.
I cannot tell the rain
to cry.

because I am poor
because I am old
because I am disabled
crippled by emotions
crippled by hopelessness
crippled by love

Teach me that I might know
from the very beginning
what I have always
known in my heart.

There are anthems
on the sidewalk
There are pageants
in the store windows
forgetfulness of things past
taking steps, one foot
before the other,
one after the next
small steps

how have my steps, once fast
become so slow?
Once I took long strides
now only a short distance is left
but it seems so much
harder than before

Late in the day,
the sloping afternoon sun

now all that remains
is this city bus.

myself on crutches, taking too
much time climbing aboard,
taking too much time
paying the fare,
taking too much time
climbing off

still it is only the bus driver
who waits for me

Twilight, I stand outside
as I have done
so many times before
straining my ears
in the urban soundscape
for a distant rat-tat-tat,
a fragment of a street beat,
the drums and cymbal
of a marching band

a tattoo beat out
with sticks and snares
on a remote street,
the rise and fall
of distant footsteps
marching together
or standing alone

For years I believed
that I had heard them
For years I waited for them.
For years I believed
they would come.

But am I the only one
who has heard them?
Is there no one else here
who can say, “Yes,
I heard it. I heard
a marching band
practicing yesterday afternoon
about two blocks away? ”
Is the music, then,
for my ears alone?
Is the song not distant
but near?

Is it possible that
no one else has heard it
because in fact
it does not exist?

That there is no crack
drill team or drum corps
practicing just out
of earshot,
waiting for us
to join them even now,
with their uniforms
and instruments,
just around the next corner,
just beyond the next
parking lot
only one block away?

Have I been the only one, then,
refusing to believe
it did not exist,
getting further and further
out of step
responding to the music
of a different drum
that only I could hear?

that I searched for
but could not find?

Submitted: Thursday, March 22, 2007
Edited: Friday, November 18, 2011

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