Wednesday, January 31, 2007

paul

his long white beard falls rudely
to greying chest hair, a worn

mountain of brave obtrusiveness
forming a furry second jaw of sorts

that opens when he speaks with a
wholesome drawl, the kind borne

from countless nights of buzzing
blacktop, snapping American flags,

and Jack Daniels always near at
large, meaty hand. he tells me

stories stained with tiremarks, about
the scream of an Old Sioux after peyote

fast and wise like the swift itch
of wind and leaves. or a mute Vietnam

veteran with a hook for a hand who could
still tie his shoes perfectly, and whom he

hitchhiked with in the pounding snow
for three days, till the man got angry

flagging down a car by busting a window
open, holding it with his powerful arm

and the rusty metal of his hook. or with
salt water tears spicy enough to scorch

the pavement beneath, he speaks of his
dog Jefferson, a brown rotweiler who

became an alcoholic after so many funnel
parties and wild nights, finally having

to be put down. all i can hear is his
voice, of course, standing near his truck

decorated with magnets that look like
bulletholes. i want desperately to say,

"those days are all over. you are only
a memory given recognition when someone

speeds at streetlight, or buys an old
Harley. you are only a phantom bathed

in the dim light of your open driver's
door." i do not, needless to say, and

i see ghosts in his fierce eyes as we
stand, and the rain gently on his memories.

by John Thomas Allen


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