Out on Webster Pike in East Tennessee is a fenced up
vintage garage where weeds poke through cracked
asphalt, little sky seeking vegetative rockets amid
a kingdom of old cars full of rust.
An apt name, Yesterday’s, as it belongs to a vanished
time where it sits like some forgotten refugee camp,
rusted automobiles old, from the time of Sinatra,
James Dean, Bogart, Marilyn.
The cars were meant for restoration, to make them live
and sing again the melodies of the day when they
first hatched from the assembly line, but they have
no owner who must have passed before the initial
sanding began to strip them down to gleaming metal
and prepare a new coloured skin, like some brilliantly
painted Pharaoh’s sarcophagus waiting resurrection
to fly on gilded wings toward the sun.
The cars sit with their silent stories. Did some young man
court his girl in the 56 convertible T-Bird, her hair blowing
in the wind while from the radio Elvis crooned “Love Me Tender,”
and her eyes coated with love’s crust?
Did the Chrysler Saratoga once spin its tires on the way to
LA on Route 66, pausing in the Arizona desert to watch
wild horses, descended from the time of the Anasazi
gallop past their empty pueblos?
Or, the Bentley Mark V, a car built for the luxurious rich—
the tuxedoed gentleman holding the door for his lady
dressed in white evening gown, sequined pearls, neck
long and slender, elegantly walking into Carnegie Hall.
The 1940 Ford truck seems an odd, out of place dinosaur
nestled amid American classicism. Was this to be the
owner’s proud gem, one where he would tool
back country roads in remembrance of his father?
The sun falls into shadow, the cars silent, still. No matter
the many roads they had travelled, here they sit on
concrete blocks, final resting place, and they know
that almost no one understands any longer.
Of Bird and Man
The cat killed a dove and left it on the front doorstep
as a gift. Hardly a mark on its soft, slate-gray plumage,
eyes closed in finality. Yesterday, I saw its mate looking
for the lost love, and I wondered if birds pondered the end.
Did they dream of some afterlife bird paradise, where seeds
and bugs and worms littered the ground like gifts from the
bird-gods, or was there no conscious awareness,
only a flight moving from season to season?
I felt sorrow for the doves, and an ache for lost humanity.
For us, does an eternal paradise lie through a door
following our passing? Would we walk through green
fields with loved ones who had gone before?
Dance beneath metaphysical stars, glowing skies,
hand in hand with those we spun on ballroom floors,
transcending Bergman’s final dance in The Seventh Seal,
victory promised since ancient times.
Or, will it be like not remembering before we were born,
the soul or spirit or Plato’s forms prevailing in some celestial
realm unaware of the moment, existing from infinity’s
doors, the time before time, before our time?
Shall we look upon the doors of his face, the lamps of his
mouth, once and for all know the riddle of existence,
solve the puzzle of materialism, the fight with idealism,
and say we knew this world was not enough?
Eschatology Over the Airwaves
The apocalypse has been modernized.
No longer the gothic, the baroque, the prophetic,
starving desert hermit dehumanized by the power
of the machine, the pocket cell phone microwaves
the Revelation instantaneously at the speed of light.
Conspiracy theorists’ fingers fly over touch screens
elated about signs of the Second Coming.
The texts went like this:
Michael, where would you say we are right now
Some think Trump is the Rider of the White Horse
in the Four Horses of the Apocalypse.
Could be that. He sounded the horn.
Electronic Johns of Patmos eating a different apple—
Dionysian excitement emoted through tiny screens,
angels in the circuits, scrolling seraphim, cherubim
in the chips—should I tell them the end has always
Should I mention that they walk with Freud’s
Eros & Thanatos? Or, could be Fenrir in a Marvel movie
snarling his way
the Lion King wearing a white hat,
Hitler waiting for Götterdämmerung?
Three horses yet to come, feminist Jezebels tamed
the red horse, the black horse, the pale horse—all
ridden as romantic dream by different dreamers
miles apart, connected by modern twittering
to ancient prophecy.
Should I tell them that Rome is built on seven hills,
& these late-night texts algorithmic allegories
for feasting on the parchment in medieval monasteries?
Will the final trump card drawn be the fool?
These are my signs I would say.
He said that he sang the best songs being a
Chicago Jew, that all would be kosher between us
even if what he ate wasn’t food. That was over
bad Yugoslavian wine after he came up to me
on Burnham Park and told me that I looked like
a young Mara Corday, and said yes, I’m inside
your head and know that you don’t know who
she is, but no matter, all things forgotten are eventually
remembered, resurrect like geese migrating south
over the lake.
That was only one of the stories he told.
He was a history professor specializing in the Holocaust.
I was from Appalachia and we didn’t speak the same
language even though we knew what the words meant.
Slightly drunk, he laid out narratives like a winding staircase
with missing steps.
He played the Wise Man like in the Bethlehem story or
Obi Wan fingering the Force.
I played Damsel not in Distress, all on a dark barroom stage.
Look, I said, I’m not the temple priestess that laid with
Enkidu for seven days.
It rained longer than that, he said, in the deluge.
He admired my skimpy red skirt, long black hair that looked
like Grace Slick singing “White Rabbit” at Woodstock.
Yeah, I said, but mother wouldn’t like the pill you carry.
He garbled a Yiddish poem and I told him that growing up
too much Patsy Cline had spoiled my head.
These stories, like the clichéd pen spilling from a third rate writer,
always end up in a room. But no, I told him stories of my own:
of the missionary beheaded outside Mecca, the actor who hung
himself because he was emptied out, a girl without milk singing
goat songs, the Depression bum who stole the apple pie and was
tarred and feathered, Ophelia who drowned for false love, the real
King who died before Slick slicked up her song.
There are many ways to lose yourself if you only listen
to your screwed up nerve endings.
This Mirror, this Moment
Know your origin, the dark love circles
that afterwards made you a penumbra.
That is not the first foundation, merely
happenstance of chance, an underpinning
where feet will tread on asphalt or creek beds,
rock or carpet, hear songbirds in morning or
rushhour’s blare. This choice was made for
you like a night’s electrical storm terrifies
while illuminating the dark walls, skeleton
limbs waving in the dusky moment that
you try to peer through.
When sitting at the glass after morning’s
coffee combing your long hair woven by
a spider’s thought, reflect also on the shadow
before shadows, moon’s umbra that spit out
the nervous sweat between sheets that set
you on the path toward staring in the glass
like a scryer’s daughter knowing that the
space between the stars holds the secret,
riddle unarticulated that your red lips
cannot ask, oval eyes cannot see.
Your parents knew not what they did.
They, too, were spit out by the same forces
that splits the crow’s tongue, sets the
panting breath of sad animals in the spring
tumbled toward the other’s origin for
seasonal respite in the penumbra enveloping
them like the slow crawl of desert dunes
building and collapsing, or stars that wink
out at dawn, rivers once wet run dry.
Comb through your hair like cornsilk
with slow, deliberate strokes. Watch your
hand and brush become one. At the back
of the mirror all is recorded for someone
else who will one day sit at the same place
unaware of your lost shade, sensing that
there is something that needs to be known.
Dr. Ralph Monday is a Professor of English at Roane State Community College.
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