Poems and Songs in the Darby Novels

Ocean Blues in Plenty

Fears of scarcity seem like an ancient superstition.
Crowds shop instead of breaking windows.
Great rolls of time unravel. Only Darwin complains
that there is vengeance in a stool.
Philosophers favor memorial services for ideas over ideas.
A man named Edgar photographs poisoned fruit.
Darwin writhes. He has not found truth; truth has found him.

[This is a poem attributed to Hadly Blue in my novel A Little More Than Kin. I got the "Edgar" name from my friend Edgar Bernstein, who was a photographer, and a good one, back in our college days.] Emily's Song

The TV speaks to Emily in her rocking chair.
The Secret Storm rages and then subsides.
A woman confesses how she rid the chafe
From her hands.


Roses for Emily.

Emily's waiting for Love of Life to come on the screen.
The sun has wilted her plants,
And the leaves are in mourning.
The wind tips the rocker first forward then back
And blows through her thin gray hair.
Outside, the cat yowls for the back door
To open itself.
Roses for Emily.

She's waiting for Love of Life to come on the screen.
She always liked this room--the smell of the sofa
And sounds of the shade cord tapping on the window.
On the floor, years ago, played the Lieutenant boy
She lost in the war. On the lawn today, Mr. Robin bobs
For a worm, like a find gentleman
Tipping his cap.
Roses for Emily.

Emily's waiting for Love of Life to come on the screen.
The wind carries the fragrance of flowers inside,
to linger by her rocker, like an oarsman pausing
to watch the sea. The neighborhood is napping;
Children lie softly as fur. The rower dipping
His oar, first in the water and then the sun,
The insistent cat, the flowers teasing the wind,
The robin and his great dignity; the children,
Even the woman with the chafed heart
Have what Emily had until 3 o'clock. The Secret Storm
Has ended and Love of Life comes on the screen.
Roses for Emily, Roses for Emily, Roses.

[This song, which appears in A Little More Than Kin, was inspired by Fritz Bernstein one day while she sang a song and played her guitar on Central Square in Keene, New Hampshire, in (I think) 1980.]


Paintings

Places I have never seen
That perhaps no longer exist
Or have never existed
--muddied oils of New England villages By unknown artists which can be had
Cheap at country auctions--
Might be places to go
If they drop the bomb
Or if the world were to go suddenly, permanently
Bonkers.
Or if you leave me.

[These lines were attributed to Hadly Blue in Whisper My Name.]


Bare Essentials

Cash to pay my way, wheels to carry me.
In place of destination a direction--West.
All day and into the night--West.
Across the land--West.
Across the waters--West.
Butterfly stroke to Hawaii--West.
Breast stroke to Japan--West.
No, now West brings us to the Far East.
How can far West equal Far East?
Is it any wonder I'm so screwed up?
Faster I run faster I'm back where I started from.
North, freeze, becomes South, fry;
West, freedom, becomes East, creation.
To hell with these laws,
I'll live by my law: West forever.
Straight to the end of everything.
Live Free or Die,
you're all I got for home.

[Attributed to Frederick Elman a.k.a. F. Latour in Live Free or Die.


Praise the Road

I stay on back roads to avoid police,
real and imaginary.
I listen to the Christian minister on the radio
and look at the scenery.
A wood-frame schoolhouse
has been converted into a chiropractic center.
Praise the Lord.

Aching backs, arthritic joints, venereal sores,
cancerous tumors, AIDS kisses, broken hearts,
busted humps--pain and mortality--why, yes,
I understand now what it's all about,
the world not round but inside out,
a Mobius strip dangling like a decoration
in the waiting room of a chiropractic center.
Praise the Lord.

If I ain't good at living,
what's the use of living?
If I'm no good to me and thee
what's the Good?
They'll say he drove too fast.
They'll say he jumped the rail.
At road's end, they'll say, man and vehicle
took holy communion with a telephone pole.
Praise the Lord.

[Attributed to Frederick Elman a.k.a. F. Latour in Live Free or Die.]


Nowhere

Whip off the main road
onto a road without a name sign or number
then off onto another road.
Lose yourself.
Go nowhere, sleep nowhere, wake nowhere.
In the morning, drive away from the sun,
from nowhere to now, here.

[Attributed to Frederick Elman a.k.a. F. Latour in Live Free or Die. I added the last line. Sorry, Freddy, I couldn't resist.]


The Dogs of March

My feet sting with cold
-"His feet sting with cold," the choir mocks him in song--
the back of my trigger hand is numb and blue;
my nose runs, I weep.
"This is no hunter, providing food for family and tribe. This fellow confuses police tactics with religion,
exercise with duty. He's just a man with a gun."
I listen for the crackle of disturbed leaves,
hear only the crunch of my own footfalls.
I scan the measures between trees.
I search for a movement, a flash of white light.
She's there. I sense her, delicate, unaware.

Snow begins to fall,
as if it had been falling in a time before this,
I a self before this self.
The gray whitens, less a cloak,
more a sheath to protect the blade of the new season.
I cut the distance between us. Down wind
I wait, patient, stiff;
my scent crouches in the rocks like a bad memory.
"Mocking himself, he mocks us all. Disinter his bones and put him in the movies."
I hear her. Hoofs stroke the snow,
Soft mouth nuzzles the tips of the hemlock trees.
My neck is sopping with frigid dew,
and I am cold but do not shiver.
The rifle warms me, squares my shoulders,
drops me to one knee. I am in perfect position.
I feel like a dancer.
My vision narrows to a point of white light.
A string tightens from a place inside me.
The noise goes slack, then comes round in echo.
I rise to my feet and follow the bullet.

Snow forms flesh on the bones of the trees.
It falls as if in a time before this,
to pay homage to a time before that.
It falls with the grace of a penitent
dropping to his knees.
The doe has no vision of coming winter,
no vision of the dogs of March,
their paws skimming along the hard rough crust
while her sharp hoofs plunge through.
A dancer, suddenly awkward, alone, pursued,
she listens to her breath.

She sees shades of gray over shades of gray.
The trails she follows are marked by their smell,
wind down into nodes,
where remembrance of sleep lies softly as fur.
Her ears are cocked like an audience's,
her nerve endings choir singers
listening for their cues.
It is then the horizon joins the earth,
and becomes moss.
Is this sharp awareness a color? Is color a curve,
like a boat and she rising to the surface to meet it,
rising to meet the horizon,
rising from the dark depths of oily waters, rising,
breaking through to the broad lake?
Or only the snow pressing against the leaves?

The bright color of flesh colors the snow.
She begins to fall slowly to her knees,
then she rises while a part of her does not rise.
Her nerve endings jerk spasmodically.
She crashes through brush,
the strings of her body pulling all wrong and violently.

"In pursuit he hears a pounding on the forest floor, which is the sound of his own foot-falls
mingled with the sound of his crazy dreams.
He hears his child bang without purpose
on an organ in an empty church."

She falls and is still. I find her.
I unsheathe my knife and open her belly,
leaving her insides steaming on new snow.
I curse, my lips crack when I try to speak
and my hands blister when I reach for her.
I drag the body across the orchard.
The falling snow gently heals the bruised earth
with its nothingness.

[Attributed to Frederick Elman a.k.a. F. Latour in Live Free or Die. I made a couple of minor changes.”]


(Untitled)

The sea in her gift for composition
Has a made a place, if not a self,
For that rock, that kelp.
Thus I am unconcerned
That my hat has blown away,
That the gulls are laughing:
"There is less of him than usual."

[Attributed to Hadly Blue in A Little More Than Kin.] (Untitled)

Father, accept my sacrifice
of these two pears.
I will tie them in a loose bag
to hang from this branch.
They will turn soft and sweet
changing gender as does a season.

[Attributed to Hadly Blue in A Little More Than Kin.]


Testimony

We bend to our knees,
scoop up the water and drink it.
We remember the cold on our skin,
the taste on our tongues,
the tactile feel
as the water goes down our throats.
Later, when we stand before our friends,
or perhaps the jury, we say,
"I held the river in my hands."

[Attributed to Frederick Elman a.k.a. F. Latour in Howard Elman's Farewell.]


Interstices Between Dark Matter and Us

I put my son in the front pack baby carrier
for a walk in the woods headed for Grace Pond.
What do you see, boy?
I read his answer in the thought he sends me.
Spider webs in ferns, in trees, in the interstices
between the comet dust that makes up
the rings of Saturn
and the loved one who left us too early.
Give me water, father, give me water.
I tip a moose wood leaf toward my son's mouth,
and droplets of dew quench his thirst.

When we reach Grace Pond I place the baby carrier
on the stern seat of the John boat and tie it down.
I row out into the pond to the cove
full of lily pads and the grey skeletons
of dead pine trees rising out of the shallows
like big ideas that just don't work.
We've come to see the heron.
She walks on her stilt legs
until she finds a station.
She stands motionless waiting for the judgement.
I hold the oars so they don't part the waters.
My son sends me a thought.
I answer with my own thought:
I'm thinking of your mother, too.
The heron darts her beak into the water
and comes up with a yellow perch.
Fish crossways in her mouth she begins
a laborious takeoff,
tucking her stilt legs behind her,
huge wings slapping water as she strains for a height,
finally rising on an air current,
circling back into the nest at the top of a dead pine.
I look through the binoculars
and see a chick's open mouth.
I let out a celebratory whoop.
My son throws up his hands and imitates my whoop,
his first word.

[Attributed to Frederick Elman a.k.a. F. Latour in Howard Elman's Farewell.]


The Only Friend I Got

Since You Departed, darlin'
he's all I got for company,
that old man in the bathroom mirror.
They say the day I won't remember him
is the day I won't remember you,
so I treasure him
-- he's the only friend I got.

They say he moves his lips
when he walks down the street.
They say he repeats himself,
They say he repeats himself,
And he misses when he shaves
And that's okay.
I say all he misses is you
-- he's the only friend I got.

Remember when you did all the talking, darlin'
handled all the family trouble?
Remember those days, darlin',
when I checked the oil
and you wrote the checks?
I saw him this morning in that mirror
--the only friend I got.

He says better put on your reading glasses,
--if you can find them. He looks at me, kinda puzzled,
kinda tired.
He says, we loved her, doncha know.
I nod and he nods.
I says to him I says,
you're the only friend I got,
all the rest are dead and gone.

They say he moves his lips
when he walks down the street.
They say he repeats himself,
They say he repeats himself.
They say he misses when he shaves
And that's okay.
I says he's the only friend I got
and all he misses is you
and all he misses is you
and all he misses is you.

[Attributed to Tahoka Texas McCloud in Howard Elman's Farewell.]