Monday, April 24, 2017

Here's another Rhysling nominee

Luminous Decay

Clues to their shadowy residency
Are numerous on the overgrown estate
Broken plaster on the upper floors
Edged with the stab marks of pencils
Toothbrushes frozen upright
In glass jars of hardened paint
Aligned by the west entrance
Also down in the sunken lands
Fishing lines tied to hammers
Then strung into reed-choked ponds


The feral young speak a jungle patois
Born of happenstance
French plus aristocratic Spanish
Plus made-up words or sounds
That they all understand
Punctuated by panther calls
The girls dress up from moldy trunks
Left in the staff quarters below
Then discard their fashion at will
Make togas of their bed sheets
The boys mimic schooling in a study
Papered with simple portraits
Of what they once called
The Vast Governess Parade

The old Portuguese cook soldiers on
For them with great affection
She raids the wall safes
Stocks up the house larder
Feeds the young with stews
Porridges fragrant breads jams
These are left in white bowls
On the landings of the grand staircase
By the cook’s mute son
Whom the girls tease mercilessly
Before they use him roughly
To discover gambling or sex
He must also tend to Her Ladyship
Who is bed-ridden but lucid
In her demands and her sorrows

Sometimes a traveler materializes
Usually scared off by the burned ruin
Of much of the east wing
Those few that brave the front entrance
Are feted in the dining room
With teas and bright talk
Of the decline of the great families
Or the wild mutations outside their home
This is the one room kept tidy
And polished by everyone but the mute
Who keeps to his unending chores
And the whims of women

At night the young haunt
The garden pathways in games
That sport a savage jungle logic
Then feed the old wolfhound
From tins and laugh sweetly

As they toss him a stick
Cut from the Lord’s favorite cane

By morning they scatter
To their favorite dens or follies
Throughout the mapless grounds

Soon they will straighten their posture
Comb out their dreadlocks
Find respectable gear to wear
Pilfer the silver money box
Kiss Her Ladyship on the ring
Venture out to their scattered lives

Of course they will all return here
Busted by the travails of knowledge
They will bury each other’s bones
Until the mute stands alone
Silent in the night rains

As the rooms are cleared of debris
The long lost inheritors of the estate
Will find his yellowed journals
Feverishly scribed
In an indecipherable language
Illustrated with countless line drawings
And vibrant watercolors
Of ethereal grace

Robert Frazier

Reprinted with author's permission from DN 103.

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