Monday, June 12, 2017


"may the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer."

"May the words of my hands and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in thy sight, O Doc, my friend and my brother."

---Psalm 19:14 and variations thereupon

"The night falls, the day decays, the watchmen come to their stations.  The grave is dug, the spices laid, the linen taken forth.  The bones of death, the covering clay, the sinews shrunk and dried.  Reviving shape, inspiring move, breathing, awakening, springing like redeemed captives when their bonds and powers are pursed."

---Variations on William Blake's "America, a Prophecy", 1794

Out to th' back porch I carried
a tea lite votive in a glass holder
this laptop and mouse
an old box of kitchen matches
a tall can of Steel Reserve beer.

The sun was setting, the gloaming coming on
I struck a match into life and lit the railroad lantern.

saying the words of the Psalmist and my own variation, 
placed Doc's bowler on my head
      (it doesn't fit,
      and rides th' back of my head like an oversize character in Our Gang)
and I lit the candle in it's glass in the middle of th' table.

Doc's Ghost, who had been hanging about me all day today, 
came to sit in th' chair by th' door.

He looked at me, and with one hand took the Marlboro from his mouth and exhaled a soft cloud
with the other hand, he held up three fingers, Sign Language style:  the index, the middle and the thumb
        telling me that at least part of him was my own imaginings, 
       because that's th' way *I* make th' number 3.

I nodded, raised the pink plastic cup to his health, and he did likewise with his own can
conjured right then just for that moment.

We drank.

We sat for a long moment, words not being necessary, just like in the old days in these moments,
and he stood in his faded jeans and red cap and walked down into th' yard
where there is that patch of scorched earth.

Doc conjured a pile of dry kindling, tipi-ed up in that simple way of his that I still have yet to master
3 years gone today and still able to put together in minutes what I still haven't learned

reached into his pocket and pulled out a Zippo I found at a garage sale when I was 17 
   (some kind of advertisement for spark plugs on th' side)
and lit the fire.

I sat on the bench and wrote myself standing up too, to also cross down to the fire and sit in one of the
wooden lawnchairs that Doc also made for us that we might sit and be comfortable
and not on the hard ground peppered with the cast shells squirrels rained down like spring showers.

there was no wind; smoke rose vertically

the crickets sang

the fire popped now and then as it grew bigger.

"a fire makes its own kin, 
and knows no stranger," I said aloud, because it had to be said
    it always had to be said.  It's true, and it pleases the fire.

Doc smiled, and his eyes got that got that look--
you know it-- that soft one; that inward-gazing one,
th' one that says "somewhere between now and no more than 7 minutes from now,
I will recite On the Road to Mandalay,'
because *I* must; because it has to be said.  We cannot HAVE this moment without Kipling.

somewhere between then and 7 minutes from the then
and becasue it was a Watermelon Sugar moment--
I am here and you are distant--
I stood by this fire.

I took off Doc's bowler and held it by the brim o'er my heart
and because he coudln't be heard, I spoke for him

By the old Moulmein Pagoda, lookin' eastward to the sea,
There's a Burma girl a-settin', and I know she thinks o' me;
For the wind is in the palm-trees, and the temple-bells they say:
"Come you back, you British soldier; come you back to Mandalay!"
Come you back to Mandalay,
Where the old Flotilla lay:
Can't you 'ear their paddles chunkin' from Rangoon to Mandalay?
On the road to Mandalay,
Where the flyin'-fishes play,
An' the dawn comes up like thunder outer China 'crost the Bay!

with the poem drifting into th' air
a thread tying this place and time to that place and time
3 years and 500 miles between

and Doc sitting quiet, his eyes closed
his feet in his big leather shoes
I recited the whole thing for him, just as I heard him say it all those times before.
I sat down and drank th' last swallow.

Doc opened his eyes, 
gave me one of his dimpled smiles,
and nodded once.

The oil in th' lantern was almost gone, and th' flame became weak and small.
I blew it out, 
looked up

and saw that Doc was gone.

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