G. Louis Heath
I am a native Californian who is a Professor Emeritus, Ashford University. That basically means that my campus closed and I had to retire at age 71 in May, 2016, after 47 years in higher education. Please excuse the clinging initial G. (for Gary) Louis Heath but I thought it was cool in 1969 when I first published! My books include Mutiny Does Not Happen Lightly, Long Dark River Casino, and Vandals in The Bomb Factory. I love to read my poems at the Midwest Writing Center in Davenport, Iowa and at other open mic events. I serve on the Human Rights Commission of my city, Clinton, Iowa. I love to hike along the Mississippi River where I can sit down, weather permitting, and work on a poem that I have stuffed in my back pocket.
My Dad’s memorial service, began with a guy in
a kilt marching in, playing a bagpipe. The tall man
in tartan kilt turned all eyes. The shrill blast he blew
drew all ears. The stirring notes lifted the dark pall
from relatives and friends. All our testimonials to a
life well lived followed as but grace notes to the piping,
portentous strains. I recounted my memories, a few
telling details. (Superlatives are worthless for the dead).
I told how I found in Dad’s garage workshop a jar of
bolts labeled “OK” and another tagged “Broken.” A
child of the Depression, Dad saved everything of value,
even of questionable value. Life on a poor Texas farm,
as the youngest of ten kids, did not break him like the
bolts, but it scarred him. Those labels showed his scars.
The piercing wail exclaimed those scars to all who listened.
The man opposite began to tremble,
a human volcano erupting out of
stained jeans and thrift shop shirt.
I yelled for help, but they told me,
wait. The seismic waves through
his frame will soon fetch up on the
floor and walls. Do not call 911. We
have seen this many times. He just
forgot his pills today. What else can
we say, but stay your helping hands?
This will pass. Fear not his biting off
his tongue. He has no teeth to even
chew. He gums his food into nutrition.
Stuff like this happens here. The volcano
within him will rein in its wrath within
the hour. We are vulcanologists at this
shelter. We know quakes. Learn to heed
the temblors that shake men to the floor.
For now, make a pillow of your sweater.
©2016 G. Louis Heath
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