Robert C. Knox
I am a husband, father, rabid backyard gardener, and blogger on nature, books, films and other subjects based on the premise that there's a garden metaphor for everything. Still utopian and idealistic after all these years, I cover the arts for the Boston Globe's 'South' regional section. My poems have been published recently by The Poetry Superhighway, Bombay Review, Semaphore Journal and other journals. Some poems were also accepted for the upcoming anthology "Peace: Give it a Chance," and a collection of poems (titled "Gardeners Do It With Their Hands Dirty") will be published in 2016 by Coda Crab Books. "Suosso's Lane," my recently published novel about the Sacco-Vanzetti case, is available at www.Web-e-Books.com.
THREE DREAM POEMS ON THE THEME OF RETURN
Return (i): Dreaming of Home
Some nights (daylight hours even) I am back there
No one tells me why
The protagonist, the narrator in the mind, wanders off into the jungle, or wilderness, of the self.
It turns to be the world: the world is a jungle
He is alone, only now he must adopt protective coloration
and watch where he steps. Is that toadstool poisonous?
The scrappy, scrapey, stitchy, slippery things massing along what passes for earth —
are they good to eat?
Is he hungry enough to try?
We lose sight of the hero of our tale
You have read (I know you have) the nonfiction accounts of these cases
in the newspapers, best-sellers, or watched on the screen
as the camera follows his back as he disappears (the History channel? Discovery?).
They leave the film running. Gone. No trace.
We look at a screen, a scene, empty of person.
He may also, of course, disappear in a crowd. (Less dramatically.)
The tale picks up our protagonist, decades hence,
maybe a lifetime, living in a hut, a cave, a tree house,
a thick grass-leaved, maybe reed-walled, cleverly woven-roofed hut
in a semi-tropical climate, living among the indigenous —
from whom no doubt we get
the word 'indigent'
Content with his little share of nothing, or at least alive.
He has given up his right to complain,
having arrogated unto himself the right to disappear.
As some of us do.
Then some envoy of civilization (you know this tale as well:
even in James's morning-coated "The Ambassador") hunts him down.
Rumors of a white skin dwelling on the steeper side of the mountain,
among the rock slides and snakes.
He has developed immunity to their bites
(but to his friends'? not so much).
He no longer keeps up with election news,
the most recent line-up of his favorite team is in Cooperstown
He experiences, at times, a longing for processed food,
grilled cheese, cream pies.
His gut has adapted to the local biota,
he drinks the water as if it came
from the puffy white hands of a priest.
One day, if the cameras, or the long separation
from the invisible fingers of the wired world, do not corner
and grind him up,
he steps off a jet plane
in an anonymous city
no one knows him any more
(they never did)
I am home.
Return (ii): The Sun
He finds the yellow ball in his backyard
And takes it to the sea.
The others are eating cornflakes.
They're shining bicycles.
Flutes and brass gleam in the sun.
The summits are brazen, glowing from their daily polish,
sparkle and dew,
a sheen in the night, silent as ice-fall at daybreak.
The new ball stretches to meet him
Elongated fingers capture it
We follow the 'boing!' the 'boing!'
along the naked sidewalk
to the city, or perhaps the desert,
that opens to view,
a nirvana at the end of the endless highway,
or perhaps merely Las Vegas.
Building building people People
of gobs of gab. Some gobbles, gapes.
Now the sky is full of bric-a-brac,
the wavy lines of the TV meteorologist racing across the field of vision,
Tuesday, Wednesday night, maybe after midnight, possibly the weekend
So busy! That empty road a hubbub, selfish by
day, lenten by night, hurry on tomorrow
We are back! We are back!
The yellow ball rolls
to the side of the road.
Return (iii): The Nostalgia
I remember the old songs
which does not explain why the old singers
are so damn old
I see them as they always were
A smirking, ego-tripping Zimmerman
The gracious Spanish maid grayed over
to the sad-eyed lady of the song's predictions
A confessional, brilliant, insecure, promiscuous, disappointed
The four sneaky-poetic dopers with
their plaintive falsettos
They come back to me, these images, on greasy thumb-printed,
oleaginous advertisements for nostalgia albums,
photographs of somebody else's make-believe life,
your good ol' days commercially reproduced
like butter without butter fat, a pablum good
for bad teeth
the thin gruel of top 40 singles
the doo-wop of life before mopping a kitchen floor
became an act to increase domestic harmony
Old farts on public TV
from the day Sergeant Condiment,
laughing wittily summoned 'thirty years ago today'
now fifty years ago since its own plaintive self
Whitmanically bearded blues rockers
in whom I place no credence
Doors that will no longer open
Airplanes that will never fly
The undead who (like poverty) are always with us
The eve of demolition that never explodes at
dark of night, exacting merely a thin gray dawn from
the waking nightmare of the evil days
of national dysfunction
Why not then go back
Lay out the postcards of the projected destinations
Play 52-pickup in the railway stations
of the private nightmare days that follow
when the dream is over
and the walking dead return to the land
and put gray flannel gags across your lips
and draw conclusions on the wall
Don't try to punch above your weight
like the sad boxer (of Simon sezing)
who will end up beneath a bridge
enjoying metaphysical dialogues with the
avatars of other races
going north? or going south?
in the highways of your mind,
in the dangling conversations
Do not sigh: it could be so much worse,
for there but for fortune
lie the thousand bodies washing up dead on Ionian shores
as some new Trojan War
plays out Homerically in the old neighborhood
where everything began...
And we are summoned to return,
eyes moist, with tears
©2016 Robert C. Knox