Then I Saw What Was Calling - Poem by Bernard Henrie
You cannot board trains anymore to Yuma,
or sagebrush towns where barefoot I rode horses
and repaired a cleft palate, a lisp and shyness
that loitered over my early years like row boats
on the pond surface.
The quickened days of my university, lecture rooms
with varnished hardwood floors, ancient book titles,
white-bearded professors, discussions, cluttered dorms
and a newspaper job where I was given a back desk
and the solemn restraint of a profession.
Later, making eyes at you, talking into the night,
a bunk narrow as a pirate plank where I first
received the scent of your black hair and we awoke
at some early hour pleased and mystified to fall back
into a peacock fan of pleasures.
And then we assailed the burning Vietnamese,
afflicted ourselves upon their towns and field spaces,
soiled ourselves and ended the lives of so many,
ended our contempt and began our personal vagaries
of noisy dissent, our seasonal voyages into harm
and discovery, the bitter harvest of self-made bad luck.
The birth of Madeleine, a rolled out butter bean child
setting a table for her penguin fish, her giraffe
and cloth doll with sewn thread for eyes and mouth.
Her mathematics, piano keyboard and horse saddling,
nine hours in jail for a political sit-in, appointment
to the Dallas corps-de-ballet, swollen ankles
and nosebleeds in the dry, arid concert hall,
rouged cheeks and stage makeup, the excitement
of an astronaut on first earth orbit looking down.
Finishing my work for good.25 year retrospective
of my poems, thoughts and paintings that I love,
friends who wobble and fall, isolate themselves
into old age and the wrath of unkempt promises.
And so the panorama slows, the vivid colors
and hieroglyphs diminish and galleries close,
first one and then a second until all is forgotten
and a janitor impatient for home, shoos out
a lone straggler and locks up the galaxy,
the stars and moon of my life still blinking
as I remember the locomotive headlight
of passenger trains steaming in my boyhood.
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