The other day, he goes down again, taking to the old couch
Like Raskolnikov awaiting a final plot point from Porfiry.

A shell-shocked survivor of war, his body feels the guilt
Because his head stands alone in resisting the violent coup.

On such days he doesn’t play at his Joplin rags or smirk
Between the give and take of Scott’s contrapuntal phrases.

Or smile at his sisters coming in and flopping across the floor
To The Maple Leaf and St. Louis, the syncopation arousing them

To dance like a gaggle of comic floozies in an old-time nigger revue.
On such days, when he goes down, it’s always the same routine –

I go find something to do. The restraints of masculine tenderness
Distract me from thoughts of tears and masculine tenderness.

One can kill him for love of the Father, Kierkegaard might say,
But why can’t one love a son at such times – is love going to kill you?

My wife tries to console with separation – she’s holding out
With headstrong femininity like a distant peal of thunder.

She sits in her least favorite chair, hands curled tight around
A hot cup of black tea, intent on not listening to his sobs

Across the room. But she is not without sympathy, not without
Patience. It is just her way to address the redress that pain must be

Since the world lost the honest need to make a fruitful account
Of itself. So pain is met with in this way – an obstreperous enemy

Flexing white heat in lightning arcs from our son’s nexus to his plexus
And massaging its piano assai into crucified wires, adagio assai.

The fuller measure only comes when the agony rears up across
And swiftly closes on the great open spaces. She looks away as if to say,

“Let the thing run itself out. Let it feel its legs. Sow its oats.
Yes, even catch its breath.” Then a severe sip from her tea that says:

“Fuck you. That’s my son.” She becomes deliberate: puts her cup down,
Erects a newspaper wall and buries herself among the columns –

She intuits that pain is looking for satisfaction (she will not give it),
Is looking for an out, an escape, an excuse (she gives nothing but distinctions

That cool her tea:) when pain comes back it always comes back
A demon full of demands, at pains to slough off any meaning from suffering.


  1. Jonathan Webb says

    Recalls the best of Langston Hughes.

    Thanks JOB.

  2. Jonathan Potter says

    Magnificent. My favorite loaded line:

    Erects a newspaper wall and buries herself among the columns

Speak Your Mind