On the Way to Jericho
On the way to Jericho we pause
in a fuzzy little village wrought
of driftwood and yellow brick.
Citizens shaped like teapots prowl
shops peddling yard goods, T-shirts,
and cookware. The houses smile
through a grit of coal dust. Railroads
mate in the center of town. A church
glooms over a rusty little pond
edged with ice. Christmas is creeping
through the shrubbery. Ribbons flop
on red enameled doors. Blue lights
edge the town hall, a confection
of belated Queen Anne brickwork.
You want a cup of cocoa. I need
a dose of rum to ease the growling
of organs for which I’ve no respect.
A tavern beckons with a jukebox
coughing up Bob Dylan carols.
Jericho’s only another two
or three hundred miles. We’ll sleep
in the car. We won’t risk the inn
here, a ghostly purple sheen
flashing in the dusky windows.
You say the cocoa tastes earthy,
but you drink it down anyway.
The rum aches like transfusion
and solves my immediate needs.
When we step outside, the village
looks riper, homier, and people
greet us by name. No need to drive
all the way to Jericho when stars
pepper the dying sky and a cottage
yawns to digest us, body and soul,
the dark rooms brimming with the cries
of our famous unborn children.
House-Sized Ice Floes
East of Brunswick, railroad tracks
crumble in rust. The next train
will derail in a huff of exhaust
and clatter of aimless wheels.
From the overpass I observe
rats bustling in a drainage ditch.
Food is always their purpose,
food to fatten themselves for winter,
food for litters of little pink rats
cuddled in nests beside the ditch.
I’m hitchhiking to the seashore
where I expect house-sized ice floes
to crumble up and shatter. Despite
the lack of snow-cover the cold
speaks with authority. Trees creak
in the wind. No Christmas shopping
this year, no one expecting
even the ghost of a greeting
from me. I could stand here for years
and no train would come along
to derail in a gust of drama.
That era has passed. The cackle
of birds in the colorless distance
suggests where the sea is thrashing
in Technicolor green, blue, gray.
I might be a month or so early
for ice floes, but learning the language
of creation requires me
to dip a hand in the icy brine
and consider where I came from.
Maybe like the Titanic I’ll crash
on the ice and sink inside myself,
and the rusty old railroad tracks
like a sprig of broken syntax
will elongate into elegy.