Peace Maker

By Roy Dean Doughty
Written 7/9/08

The lichen encrusted trunk
And the sere-dry extremities
Tell us that his plum tree is old,
Its fruit, no longer ripe sugars
Plumped around optimistic seeds,
But rather withering markers
For the expression of something deeper,
Something corrosive, but perhaps more nourishing.
In these rusted, hang-dog leaves,
There are no more serpent-hopes with wings,
Nor web-sacks stuffed with fair-spoken promises,
Nor instigations to springtime frolickings.
But we do see a dolorous, old codger,
Shuffling about moodily in moldy shoes,
His heaven the heaven of industrialists and doubters,
An ancient yesterday’s traversal
From smoke-filled to smoke-filled room.
And as the hot, harsh wind shakes the tree,
This asthmatic antiquity,
His voice sounding distant and muffled,
As if emerging from a play-out well,
Garrulously explains about the unreal past,
Each of his stories constituting a distraction of mind
That alters for the worse the temperature of the day,
Each of his words a sound like the collision
Of oxidized metals against the fragile body,
Each of his sentences emitted slowly, slowly,
Like a moldering ember devouring damp wool,
Or like the rasping noises that skeletons make
When trying on dark flesh. His words strike us,
Strike the soft tissue inside of us,
And breed curious distempers.
Each of his tales, pointless, depressing,
And lasting as long or longer than a widow’s night.
Yet there must be, is, something still vital here, in this tree,
In its odious sights and sounds and odors,
Something that speaks of an intemperate courage,
And that astonishingly brings back to us,
As if from the battleground of every life with life,
If not a weapon that can stop the war,
At least the expiation of rapport.

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