by Lamont Palmer
Photos on a table: nearly shiny gods of reflection,
made us bow down before the small, instant altars
spread out like a sea of happy snapshots.
Can the fearful and the familiar coexist?
This is the imagined place where faces reign;
old exposures destroying the protected images.
Each inscrutable sign is in your face; the fights,
the weed, the Chevy van lost in strange street powder,
the wall between the silence of you and the
cryptic areas putting up their powerful walls.
Old apothecary, now straight, now clean,
now dubious pocks remain into evening,
and your tongue, like parts of your life, stays soundless.
For a brother, you are the distant one, not full
of the force of togetherness, lanky arms which
rarely reached out to hold onto what is important,
in the days that wind and flee and depart, like
the gale blown roads, the black tar of eventual death.
Placing the pictures back into albums,
mirrors slaves being pushed back into shackles;
iron cuffs changing wrists from bone to weakened
cartilage, in the face of the photographic mind
hiding you, my big brother, hiding behind former facts,
falderal, yet convincing. The jowls say frozen things;
the jowls assert the idea that makes me sad,
instruments of melancholy ruin the day.
Here was my common mask. I wore it as a familial
cowl. I cried at your induction into the army,
(we lived for those infrequent calls from Munich)
those tears, barely teenaged tears, barely the
salt water of roaming years, taken like crojiks into a wind,
radical in its youth, radical in the power of salt water.
Twice removed from bedrooms where you kept goldfish,
colonies of ants, salamanders, various
beings that crawled or leaped through your heart of collections,
your dual rapport with the dogs of the world,
where fur and flesh and Darwinian sight, comes clean
in the active area of where we lived, brother and years.
You were Dolittle! I was the mistruster of animals,
(so many startling, stormy differences)
we did not the blend in the sense of classic blending,
but home was home, bellocosity died, a death
of middleclass murder, possessing a stucco grave.
Faddists we were not; peace grew from popular music,
satiated by the nucleus of our living room.
Why couldn't the joy evolve and survive?
You frighten the wits away, the peeping cells,
as your tall, lean body gave way to royal flab;
daddy's face came back to healthy flesh in
your face, you bore his likeness like voices
bear dirges for the early, swift deadness of time,
and familiar corpses piled high on hills of thought.
The goodness of basketball may kill you now,
the cleanliness of movement clashing with age's smut,
the sweat draining, avulsing blind energy,
and you under the shivering nets, yourself shivering
from the knowledge of nothing being the same again,
not the flesh, not the sight, not the trembling hands,
or the basketballs, careening, bouncily, toward deflation.
Allayed youth. It is the sin of the human condition,
to trounce, to erase the Annellen Road face
by fists of evil years is not what you desire,
but is what has occurred. Do you suffer from amusia?
Can you hear the frayed music, the song torn by judgement?
The daggers are heard in the photos, and seen,
and hurled, flying to a bulleye, where you never smile
or use those smiling muscles buried in your cheeks.
No facsimile is sufficient. No gift is
given to the arrogant eyes, the crestfallen
features at the base of the inside of cameras
creating sadness, creating lawlessness
where the law of life had once been strong, where
the strength of the eyes had once been aching in action.
Apartments were not cities, but you moved
back and forth, counting places like nuns count prayers.
One remembers them all, and the strange times
that could not be repeated, no more than boxberries
growing in life-infested water that hang
in the portion of your life that loves horticulture,
that most supple of your personality traits.
Frankly I find your silence, tragic. It lays
on mother like long blankets of heat,
it lays on you, not arborous lands like you discovered,
but it lays on you, slow man of slow voice,
it lays on eyes, those inventions of sadness.
you and love you? You are rare
as the one day in which we all hugged, clasping
without shame, without reservation, like the day
would bring its brilliant light to tackle the darkness,
to create a pressurized gold between the bodies
of the nuclear families, despite adept lines
painting themselves, in striking yellow, down streets of lives.
Daddy was waning into the mist,
we were dissolving into uncertain distances,
(he literally begged us to get along)
and snapshots of unnamed, unheard of roads.
This street would be the overly traveled one,
where the face of fate can render a pleasing glance.
swift, sure precepts of a life upturned,
became templates, pressed into a reality,
like me needing you, and you clinging to me,
in the days of the winds of loss, blown in white gusts?
This is the way the cards are thrown down: hard,
fast, irrefutable, on the wooden tables of days.
But this is no card game. In your sibling eyes
we are in older, more certain of places;
we are where we can go no more; unearned palaces.
You may never know this quintessential loner,
I may never know the loner trapped within
the cavernous silence that slips from your mouth.
No one mentioned the world was not Shangri-La.
To us the scheme bore the marks of silver,
the bejeweled rain snapped against the house,
the sound filled jewel boxes, filled the replete coffers.
No one explained the concept of emptiness.
Marriages of strangeness.
Marriages of darkness.
Marriages made of stone, and misplaced beds.
Three of them, in succession, and in failure,
rendering the sea of solitude, a welcomed
swim; waves set in your lungs, covertly choking them.
From my own island, I see the invisible S.O.S;
even when the sender loves his oblivion.
Oblivion, it seems is a natural state,
returning to it, a paranormal marching;
sibling following sibling, unlike when limbs were alive,
absorbing music tripled by strobelights; frequent, fabled dancing.
.......Battles are made old before they're made clear,
when the winter in our skin
turns everything white; failing, and falling.
So it is with brothers,
so it is with erstwhile rivalries.
The blood which connects us is historical blood.
........................At the dining room table, it will not last,
the meals not eaten, the words crunched on instead
of the food: though staid we were,
loving you widely, these feelings erupted into mountains,
and not reaching for reciprocation.
Thin knucklebones, artsy in the symmetrical lengths,
that used to draw such keen sketches on pads,
pass around these photos; decorations for coffins.
Ebonized to distinction, separation
lives in the speech of you and we'll never know
why it does, or how it came to signify
a departure from the beginning, from our norm.
Funny, what is clear can be so sad, so
much clarity here on stray photos, voiceless
but speaking loud verbs; you stand in them,
solid, strong, tall, but showing the blemish of mortality.
Bemired in the thick fire of the end, I cry for us,
wrapped in fireclay, treating the flame like it isn't there.