Unexpected Fire, A Son's Cycle
for my father,
Major Warren Falcon, Sr.
Of Childhood Lamenting - Song of Experience
Might I sing it then?
How many stones he hauled
Not bidden but rough forced
Hand by hand from coagulate soil,
A boy's red wagon rusting
Full of spilled tumble-stones -
Unyielding stars between the rows, silent.
Brooding father with
His hoe to weed or ridge
To row or brow to strike
Made of a boy a mule and plow
At Earth's farthest Edge
Too ill-tilled to nurture
But more to fracture.
Land and the boy turned by his
Father's bad blood to waste.
Both boy and corn obedient
To his And Greater Hand grew tall.
He hid there late summers in
Fateful stalks, grew small on
Shadowed afternoons reading of
Exiled, royal Odysseus and scores
More, native born and slave, driven
From homing soil beyond surf, beyond tall
Mountains and fragrances desert-walled.
He waited, a stone for a small boy's hand,
Or a God's, to haul him or throw,
But it was his father's.
I often stare now at my own to know the difference...
Adolescence - Praising.
Cleaning Fish On Good Friday,1966
Fate, then, heavy in a boy's hand
hoists dead weight to a nail on a tree.
His knife scores firm flesh yielding
beneath freshly limp gills - there is an
instrument made just for this, pincher-pliers
for catfish skin - he grips and tears,
uses his weight down-stripping smoothly
bare to such luscence little ribs of roseate flesh.
Only the overly large head, the ugly face
whiskered within gilded monstrance,
remain pure to form, thin-lipped and
mocking, restrained by depth pressures,
sustained on surface trash, dead things
that sink down it's treasures.
Tenderly sing, then, to a nail
a boy's blood catechism -
hands, minds, meant to be stained,
mercy's quality unstrained
neither by will nor gill.
Scavenging flocks gladly fill their
gullets inhaling entrails tossed
in supplicant bins.
In unison Gregorian they scream:
There is a nail for me
plain, a chorus of barks** -
glossolalia of rivers
now given weight.
One can only will
praise to 'The End',
and spill, after pliers,
one's silken guts in offering.
**A catfish when brought to shore barks, a rasping, barking discharge of air.
Middle Age - Awareness of Mortality Sure
Our Mutual Confession
Descending the hill in unplanned rehearsal
for what has become a destined association,
our mutual confession is invisibly drawn.
A ruined one-room church appears,
a cemetery plot weed-hidden behind this
once sentinel house long remote to men and
as present as God, my own presence is bound
to his who stands confounded now as three,
one above grave, one within it, and me
in between, one eye upon him, the other
upon sagging dirt where bones and a
ragged shirt share an unexpected
moment of veils confused in sunlight's
disarray of leaves, wood, of stone and
shadows frozen there, not breathing
for us all in unstoried astonishment.
Here horseflies feast.
Upon weathered stones are
only creases where once were
names, dates, even God's Word,
chiseled by a now unknown hand,
an impression only, one among many,
reduced to no plot but that of Providence
left to surmise swatting at Eucharistic
flies proving only flesh and only blood,
a flood of questions eventually exhaled,
and exhaling still, waiting beside
a white rock with wings,
leaning into changes.
Middle-Age - Acceptance - Forgiveness
Repose Of Needles
If you need to stand or lie
in the shade for awhile then
do so as farmers do, as does
my father who farms his despair
in hot sun then lays beneath
pines in cooler shade to rest,
to dream that activity between
dirt and sky means some lasting
thing in its doing even though
his ruined life cannot make
it right between clouds and
his obsession with weeds.
Between the garden and the
un-tilled woods he rests,
repose of needles and bark,
mid-day sun insisting its
question slowly. Night dawning
he at last in darkness stands
returned from day, a practical
vision of green shoots to come
from blistered hands.
Up hill to the colder house,
he wills himself to life enough,
speaks some words to wife,
arcs widely around silent wary
children and lives to be old.
His loss of memory leaves it
for others to forgive, to live on
in the rich rot of that ongoing
question which nurtures his
memory haltingly, gracefully, on.
Astonished, I have arrived at
love for him who hurt me most,
have learned to obey the odor
of decaying things compelling
hands to dirt. Within the dream
of staying, the tendril and the heart,
my aging body takes on my
father's form; I, too, like him,
am a farmer when I note how
it moves in its winding reach,
rooting, rising, giving horizon.
Reconciliation - Radiance:
What can I bring to harvest but these
bruised hands, these cracked stones?
Praise to the fruit tree long untended
beneath mendicant stars.
A boy above, his Radio flyer** lightening full,
Reaches to me now en exilio, the farther flung.
Father, my most difficult, most diffident friend,
My most loving curse,
A strange and fragrant Grace arrives -
From unexpected fire
comes frail, brief blossoms.
**Radio Flyer is a toy company, famous for it's red wagons.
The company opened in 1917, the year of my father's birth.
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