Where on the spectrum of loyalty and betrayal does song begin? And where does it end? I think each writer has to decide this over and over.
I Was Five and She Was Eleven
When my sister fed the geese, she honked.
Leaning up against the chickenwire fence,
She dropped her jaw to cretin level,
Stretched her lips like Ida Lupino,
Fluttered her long eyelashes and honked.
Geese stared at her and began gabbling
As the guineas screamed, the hogs grunted,
And the Rhode Island Reds buk-buk-bukkawed.
Then the slow geese wandered over, she
Leaped inside, dumped the feed all over them
And grinned. I laughed until I fell down,
Until Mahatma, the gander, hissed,
Rushed at her and pecked till the blood flew,
Till Grandma ran to break them up.
Grandma said, “Always talk soft to mules
And beggars and cornered rats, for some
Have entertained angels unawares,”
And I still try not to raise my voice.
The earth-smell of slivovitz spilled
Joins the happy roses,
Chrysanthemums’ wild babbling,
Bohemians asleep, sitting
Straight up to the dead perfection
Of a Buxtehude chorale.
What’s going on here?
This is anarchy, wanting
The grass to sing in six-part harmony.
We should be lusting
After our own reflections. Surely
The Bohemians are drunk,
And flowers are infamous
For their fecklessness.
Little love-making extensions
Of the earth, you protrude
From the dead, and from the hands
Of dead-drunk Bohemians
Who today are as green as grass
And tomorrow will compost under it.
Ah, in the moonlight the concertina caterwauls,
Sweet and unambitious, and in the cathedral
The Bohemians slumber on, drunk or dead,
Sitting squarely on their hands on the center aisle
In the middle of the road heading
Toward the rise and fall of all our yesterdays.
Patrick Worth Gray is a poet living in Nebraska. His work also appears in Midwest Quarterly and Haiku Zasshi Zo. He has written a collection of poetry, Spring Comes Again to Arnett (Mr. Cogito Press 1987).