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Poetry #161
(published January 8, 2004)
The Honorable Watson Remembers a Late-Day Lawn, a Student Post Meridiem
by David Powell

The mirror revealed the wearings of
those tired precipitous hours:
on my cheeks and chin,
in the fine arteries of my eyes,
in the bent fabric of my shirt:
six o'clock—
with hours more.
I went outside to rest near the tree line
to delay, to ruminate, to deliquesce:

The days are not restful, I thought to myself.

(Remind me, Terrence, what to drink
when to think is not pleasurable.)

We were all gods in the morning
seeing the world through a fresh mist,
and immaterial was whether
our demeanors were crisp —alert— or languid;
we were inside the swaying of our eyes,
as sudden, as sharp, as the cut of a soldier's salute.

The morning came from mist,
from nothing but the night we cannot remember.
Coming, there was daybreak
and now, again, a remanding dusk.

The days are brief.
Soon I will be in a one-room apartment
with broken tile and no carpet
looking at my reflection in a windowpane and
seeing a box fan pull cigarette smoke out of the air.
I will think of a certain Durham player's piano song
and then of a girl I watched turn in pain on a hospital bed
and grab in her slumber at the button
that put morphine into her small body.
I will mutter with somewhat intoxicated breath,
"that's a memory of five years"—
a fifteenth of a full life.

In that morning we were gods,
or creatures of God,
and we have gone into a new nighttime
not admitting a pleasant afternoon.

When I walk up the stairs, I'll hear the bells
within the chapel clock ringing—
they'll remind me that I believe in numinous things, and
time, a human's broadest concept.

On given nights I will hasten to sleep;
on others I'll sit at a window and concoct
verse such as this:

Through a Lit Window on Lee Avenue

There are only a few couples on the sidewalk,
a few fireflies in the ferns,
the clink of toy windchimes as the fan
passes over them—
or less with the breeze—
a few brown marks on the windowsill
from cigarettes left to burn
by me and those who resided here before.

There are memories now,
of boats on lakes, of cold March water
and desperate swimming;
of unexpected midday intermezzos
with girls like the few who walk
on sidewalks with fireflies.
There are memories now,
and reflections in the glass of frames.

There are sailboats:

There are books:

There is music played at a lingering, oppressive volume
and a few dreams left of fireflies and sailboats and girls.


an odd address
with stairs and empty halls and an open fire escape,
an alley with shattered bookshelves: and inside
a wandering moth in framed reflections

[the moth's desperate tapping at the walls and ceiling]
and otherwise the silence of a thousand
sounds not worthy of note:

And we all swim on given nights,
on Thursdays and the weekends,
swim for our lives
through the watchwords of our youthful mass:

the ambitious, the smart, the beautiful, the drunk.

(Remind me, Terrence, what to drink
when to think is not pleasurable.)

While swimming we don't wait;
in pitchers our lives have already begun;
around a table we belong aboard the coming reality
soon structured by the mass which, when
not around the table, waits for life to begin.
We are in favor, in love, have completed something
that means anything to any future.
The table is the center of the noisy air of promise
and pledges the faintest, untrusted pleasures.

In short hours I will sit there;
and that table will be result.
And this lawn is the incubator of
the dream of promise, favor, end, and love.

The chapel bells were far from that lawn
and could not there announce time or our greater father—

but chapel bells only called us back sooner,
and the memories of both, unannounced,
would be refreshed in due course.

There would be remorse for
not reminding myself sooner,

because there were hours left that night
or less if I rushed
and watered adventures of promise
like I haven't had in years since.

And now I am in my office,
and I am old . . .
-er and rested.
And human dreams and numinous things
are nearer, clearer, tested.

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