Sequel to a Poem by Robert Penn Warren
Daniel James Sundahl
His friend dead now, gone now,
Nearly twenty years now, embedded
In memory only, and not even witness to.
But let the conversation be,
Let it be timed in November,
Played out again like an old melodrama
Each hunting season, at an accelerated pace
When he hit fifty and some cancerous rot
Gnawed at his stomach.
To him no mere moment
Of frigid northern cloud scud
Breeding winter’s ice jams, when
To pass time you shuffle a pack of greasy cards
At midnight, and
There’s no one sitting across to explain it to.
Was I the boy he told the story to?
Smell of marsh hedge, swamp gas,
Morning aura of reddish saffron,
And him, unshaven, wading through the reeds,
Feet pulling with a sound like sucking water going down,
About the time his wife was
Passing down the hall to the bathroom,
Sleep dried white at the corners of her eyes.
A scapegrace crow laughs in the backyard tree.
Somehow a damaged leg,
Somehow a bloody explosion,
Red corolla and him unbelieving
Has entered a new time,
Has flung barrel first the shotgun straight off and into
The sun’s eye, but him the worst off
Who could not stop the ruin.
Hot and blood-shocked
Fixed now in the bathroom mirror.
She pushes at her breasts to rise up.
Snap of purse clasp, click of heels,
She leaves the house, breathing a wake of vapor.
Some groups stood in the waning light,
Shadows brushing along the ground,
Then moving after with a shuffling sound
Through the open gate,
Watching her back as she walked away
What of it?
Who could not hide the ruin
In brown-curled years between?
And in a photograph
From the war years,
A wonder of the other years he has been what he is,
And promises he should have kept
Before and after some furred thing was
Cut from his quivering stomach.
Let it be then
A conversation with a glint of tears,
One voice thick,
One scrolling it
Inside the story of his own life.