BY MICHAEL LADANYI
AMID HOPEFUL SILENCE
September has fallen off the dusty
shoulders of summer, bringing
with it a stranger cloak of
admonished rain, rumors of war,
ghosts standing over their bloody
and colluded ruin outside coughing
synagogues. Winds of peace seem
to be flat whispers in awkward and
sick trees, an aborted hope eye-
plucked and gray, weary paper
yellowed by time and forgotten
words. The blighted walls of this
room are leaning painfully inward,
some shade of stricken white,
waiting for me to notice them,
like small children peering from
dim doorways of long halls. There
are cleaved sighs lying on the
blue and rose rug at my feet,
they whisper to agony, speak of
a lesser pain, an introverted calm
lost in the broader face of death.
I hear them; they are like pale
lovers left tainted and murmuring by
poor and hungry years. September
has fallen, and despairing winds
are arranging leaves in small
stages of hopeful silence.
Late afternoon shadows are
like hollow magnets pressed
to the dead face of the
mountain, the brown fields
below palpable oceans of
sadness, in this thin and
worried December light, that
drags thirsty on hard gray
ground of winter's death in
battered ways. There is war
on our meaty breath, it crawls
across the creased backs of
our wrung hands, avoiding
the cuffs at our wrists, lest it be
tucked up a sleeve. It spills
from round corners of our full
mouths like red wine, like
naked blood of biblical whores.
Collared winds blow obvious,
punishing dead cornstalks
like paint water swirling in
protest. The numb and leaning
sun is falling in global stages,
its screams a pithy radiation,
a mathematical slaying.
Distant, sponge-dabbled pines
are miles of worn, remembering
ghosts, their wooden
eyes questioning me. I stare
at the yellow sky, thinking
that all the true artists have
died, or now refuse to paint.
This old house is creaking against loss,
refining itself further, as a matter
of obligation to the past, these cracks,
odd bits of carpet, chipped plaster,
they seep a million passionate words.
There are ghosts that shudder slow here
in late hours, trace hollow patterns in dusty
corners. They hear those words, carry
aching vowels and broken syllables over
long paneled lines, pausing at precarious
places that hold peculiar meanings.
I have seen them, mouthing silent promises,
at times carrying arm loads of failed obligation,
love left to wilt, anger that has scarred others.
They seem to collect and preserve the age
of this house, expecting nothing in return.
I have not written of you for some time
now, William. These pecking words
are scarring my fingers, invisible,
the warm blood flows like ink.
Perhaps I should gather it up,
store it in a small glass jar,
remember it the next time I forget
how to right. It's Friday morning,
the thicker edge of winter is leaning
through the long curtained window
behind me and onto the blue back
of my chair, like a once living
face in a shadow coated hall, wincing,
then still. I saw your children last
Sunday. Your son is sad, ashamed,
though he does not know why.
Your daughter does not know you,
how could she? Though you stare
like a raging soul from her clear blue
eyes when she stops for a moment
and waits. It is dark in this room,
just enough strangled light for me
to mumble through these words.
I can hear the suffering wind scratching.
I know taller oaks in the yard are pushed
at odd angles against the gray
sky, like your name at night spoken thin
to the plastered ceiling of my room.
This December night's mist is hanging still,
humpbacked, the pine-blanket
mountain is obscured,
almost as if by choice,
lack of sound is creating a dull hum,
stepping soft like secrets
and needs he has forgotten.
The few brown leaves that hang crooked
from thick boughed oaks seem to be lost,
like slow words above snow covered graves.
He is ill once again,
his breath a green rattle,
grinding against his
scarred lungs like small stones, now, and then---
Lying quiet in an oxygen tent for a month,
fevers so consuming he heard others,
felt small things shift,
break, turn bronze,
like old friends forgotten
then seen years later on
crowded streets, making one wonder---
at how small looks of remembered things
in their eyes must match your
geese will cry cold
above black stepping crows
canvassing turned fields below the mountain,
searching for cornels not plowed under;
and he will wait for the next night,
satisfied with handfuls of trembled image,
thick words, yellow breath.