NOTE: These are a few poems published here and there which I like. All were, in one sense or another, inspired by the loss of our good friend and shirttail family member.
Near the end of our Monday breakfasts,
He grew thinner, frail, frequently
Forgot his teeth, then embarrassed,
Gummed his eggs and hash browns.
Took to wearing the POW cap
He’d been given on the Honor
Flight to D.C. Sometimes a patron
Of the diner would thumbs-up and buy
His meal. After years of silence, he
Began to talk about it. The plane
Shot down over Czech fields,
Parachuting into trees, the capture,
Starvation in the stalag on the Baltic sea.
He was nineteen, years ahead:
College, law school, five wives, a single-engine
Cherokee to skim the Sierra’s, that’s what he misses
Most now: flying.
We always sat in the same booth.
He liked the bosomy waitress
Who parried his jokes. He’d studied with
John Williams who later wrote Stoner
And told him he ought to teach. He still
Regrets he ignored that, how he
Ignored his distant daughters.
That final fall, he’d barely make it
To the vestibule where we waited
Steering him in, he’d have to sit
A minute and catch his breath.
He still drove the handicapped van
He’d gotten for his last wife. Now
He was alone, he didn’t mind that.
I mostly sleep, read, watch TV.
At 91, you can’t expect
Much more than that. His eyes shone
Our of the prominence of bones.
He weighed less
Than when the camp was freed
By the Red Army.
Talking science, philosophy,
He was not a man of faith
When you’re dead, you’re dead. but he
Cared about how things worked:
Industry, space-flight, politics, art,
The obligations we pursue or
Ought to, the integrity
A man must have; he thought he’d failed
Too frequently, but then we all do.
After the fall, in the hospital bed
He was folded like a wooden toy
A child dangles from a cord. Insect-small
He grinned at us, then grimaced as
The pain struck. Gritted out
I’m not going to make it
We shook our heads, said he had to
It was his turn to buy
Which invoked a shattered laugh.
It was our special place.
Eggs over easy, bacon, toast,
Every Monday prompt at ten.
Since then, we don’t go back.
Mojave River Review
MARCH 1st WITH CROWS
A murder of crows embitters
The bleak afternoon.
Collective noun preening
How they mob the hawks
Or cry harsh accolades
To an indifferent sky.
The symbolism of crows
Is specious. Like shotgunning
The trees where they huddle
Rewriting history in a
Script of ragged wings,
Dark angels of prescience. With
knapsacks of torment, they
Fashion their nests in your mind.
Crows with their bullet eyes
And Dickensian smirks
Jammed with chancery,
A CANTICLE FOR THE BEREAVED
Like casseroles or potted plants,
Poems to ease grief,
Booklets of psalms and lilies
Or a rainbow road where dogs and cats
Await those who have passed
From master to ghost.
Like crossing fingers to avert the evil eye
Or telling hangman jokes,
The bereaved held at arms length
In the hug of schadenfreude
Not knowing what to say, friends tell
Their own grim stories. An Irish wake
With its complements of Guinness
And Bushmills to insulate
The living from the dead.
© 2018 Joan Colby
Editor's Note: If this poem(s) moves you please consider writing to the author (email address above) to tell him or her. You might say what it is about the poem that moves you. Writing to the author is the beginning of community at Verse Virtual. It is very important. -FF