THE WOUND OF BEING NEVER HEALS
“The wound of being never heals,” he said, bowing his head in prayer
before the meal. No one dared say a word until Aunt Martha had the
nerve to compliment the china plates and silverware. “What a lovely
setting. The forks and spoons and knives are superb,” she opined.
It only made him cry. He snatched them up and wiped them with his tie.
On the 15th of July, 1965, Uncle George took his life, jumping
every piece of silverware they owned. A witness to the grim event
said Uncle George seemed intent. “He looked like someone was
chasing him the way he scaled the fence and dived.”
Martha didn’t seem a bit surprised. “No one survives the wound of
being. This infectious disease leads us to quarantine our rebellious
heart and fill our lives with antiseptic remedies and cures that never work,”
she philosophized. “Still, I wish he hadn’t taken all the forks and knives.”
THE DEAD WATCH OVER US
The dead watch over us at night, coming up from fields.
Whispers and smoke, vapors and breeze, moving unseen.
We dream the dreams they once dreamed. Live lives
inside the homes they owned. Sleep in their beds.
A curtain that moves, a candle snuffed out,
a sudden chill, words barely said.
We make our way out to the graves during the day through
briar and brush, fallen trees leave us no path, to there and
back. Dark granite stones, some barely erect, record
their age, their birth and death. That’s all that we know
from these stones. We read the ancient dates, imagine
their hard lives, stone walls they built by hand still survive.
I was a farmer, a soldier, a friend,
a husband, a father, in a world without end.
Whispers and smoke moving up from fields.
These are the ghosts that watch over us.
Imagining them imagining us.
This is my house. That is my bed.
I once had a life. Now I am dead.
Who are the ones that bear witness to you?
And who will we then bear witness to?
FIRE TURNS THINGS TO SALT
White flowers grow wild in the empty lot
next door to Junior‘s Variety Store. Some
people say it‘s stayed that way too long.
He dreamed he’d pass it all along to the
next generation. Rumor is a burning cigarette
lit the bed on fire. The official version is faulty
electrical wires. It remains a tragic mystery.
Everyone lost in that blaze. The house, gone,
the foundation razed. He’s received a multitude
of seasoned platitudes but it remains an
unreasonable reason just the same. He’s grown
weary of trying to place the blame. It doesn’t
matter who’s at fault. He doesn’t care. He
wonders how anything could grow there in that
corrupted field. It hardly matters. Looking back
he turns to salt. “Aren’t they beautiful,” she says,
putting the white wild flowers in a vase
on the table where her children wait.
Jack Conway’s poems have appeared in Poetry, The