The old man sat on the cold gray day
And he froze and he shook in a peculiar way
For he’d seen the hot summers and winter’s disease
He’d set fire to the horses and he’d shot at the trees
His men were good soldiers they’d died one by one
He’d seen as they fiddled and fingered their guns
He’d known lusting beauty in boys’ green toothless maws
He’d felt tender, embittered, transcending war’s laws
He’d smelled lonely men, slept surrounded by bile
Touched toes with poor brothers who’d forgotten to smile
Had lost all the letters he’d forgotten to send
Forgotten to sleep for three days again
Every man’s got it figured he’s going to hell
They’re not getting much worse but they’re not getting well
And he still felt no feeling in his arm, leg, or heart
But for one strange memory he’d heard in the dark:
“It’s so chilly, so chilly
So chilly and cold
I can’t feel my fingers and I can’t feel my toes
The tear gas keeps leaking it’s filling the trenches I
Can’t seem to remember what my mother’s first name is
It starts with a jolt that grows soon to your head
So blind now, I tell you, can’t wait ‘til I’m dead.”
And the cannons rang out over strange no-man’s land
And he held a dead man’s wrist in his hand
Distant cries of the rotting no more filled him with dread
Now if he could only get himself some good half-moldy bread.
II. Wouldn’t you?
I sprung a leak
I bided time
I turned my cheek
I laughed until my lungs grew weak
I sobbed until my ribs did creak
I drank the ocean, spilled the stone
Ran ‘til no country was my home
Slept with drunkards by the tide
Licked the shore its last goodbye
Gulped down freedom
Heaved up wine
Preserved my flesh in salty brine
(my meats, so dried, I felt so fine!)
And made it back by half past nine
Then dressed myself in woman’s pearls
And made believe among the girls
Who yesterday could hardly speak
And now have grown so old and weak!
I think I have lost track of time,
I thought myself a man sublime but
gnawing paint from ballroom walls and
gargling lye in bathroom stalls
has turned my eyes a little strange.
I’m not sure from which door I came
(or maybe from no door at all
but from those walls and bathroom stalls
that line the rooms and dancing halls-
they slurp me in; I give them all.)
Cool, cleeeeeean, p-p-p-peptic. Septic.
Obtuse, morose, viscose — apocalyptic.
Striation – hoooowhimsy, sheikh–
Palaces of rubies and all-sky visions, no shoes.
Praying mantis – green filament.
Ship deck – blubber splinter.
Drawn bone claws – of trees, hag-witch pale and crooked bat wings.
IV. On Finding My Guppy Dead Behind the Water Filter
My mother padded softly cross the floor
In MY socks they are green and jelly feet
Like when our dog paws grating at my door
I’ll hate her more today and more next week.
I got two fish they put them in a bag
The pouch was plastic made and water seeped
Steeped with grease, my mommy’s thighs, they sag
Her ears were fine; my brother’s ears, they leaked.
Fish 1 is Bob he suffers from hysteria
Fish 2 is Allen, gray and he will glide
Bob – I thought he’d soon succumb to mania
I’m wrong now Allen’s dead Bob’s still alive.
I do not love my mother yet she loves me
Her mother loved her once but now she’s gone
I only cried when Allen died and maybe
Not crying for my grandma’s death is wrong.
Jessica Wolfsohn, Age 16, Grade 11, The Hewitt School, Silver Key