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This evening, in rural Pennsylvania,
a crowd forms near the storage lockers
abandoned by the nameless, dead maybe,
in prison or dementia, missing the rent
for so long nobody sympathizes
when the auction begins, a few dozen bids
thinning the signals until the price stalls
at fifteen hundred dollars, a better gamble
than a few months of lottery tickets.
The moon, lately, was a celebrity, full
and a few miles closer than usual, enough
to bring three neighbors outside near midnight.
One of them suggested Auld Lang Syne,
but I was alone with remembering
the approach of planet Melancholia,
how, for one perfect night, it was sized
exactly like the moon, the sky brilliant
with the fascination of malevolence
A perigree moon, science calls it, tides
heaving higher, but those three neighbors
soon talked about televised storage wars,
excited by the unknown. One repeated
the story of how eleven hundred dollars
earned a vintage Corvette, and because
he had never been inside my house, I thought
of him bidding if it were foreclosed, how much
he’d risk for what he imagined I treasured.
Each spring our village sends trucks to collect
the objects we see as trash—a typewriter,
a VCR, a lawnmower, two rusted grills—
each of those hieroglyphic possessions
spelling what we will not store. Soon, the moon
ordinary, a fleet of cars and trucks will invade
our street, the scrupulous or poor permitted
to thin our garbage, value in so many ruins
that nearly all of the useless vanishes.
Some bargains we make keep apprehension
from screaming. Invasion drives the news.
The defenseless make weapons from trash.
This semester, a colleague has died
during class, the first day, when his students,
all freshmen, knew him only by name or
stories shared by veterans. One witness
said she could see silence, like a cloud,
smothering his body. The others nodded.
My father, who surrounded himself
with silence, taught the imagery of stars.
On clear nights, when I visited, he turned
talkative in the back yard, picking out
even the lesser-known constellations—
bird of paradise, eagle, whale, the two
hunting dogs that I accepted as his way
to enter paragraphs that introduced
stories set, as he aged, further in the past.
Now, though he is thirteen years dead,
I am sending a postscript, how, lately,
it’s been declared that cave paintings
in Europe depict, not animals,
but constellations. That there was,
from prehistory, metaphorical
portraiture of the distant, and
I have stood, tonight, in the safety
of my yard to squint for patterns,
thinking of the high risk for translating
the language of night scenes, sacrifice,
sometimes, attacking those eyewitness
who, after a time, began to believe
the world’s ceiling to be decorated
by gods so generous they displayed
an encyclopedia of the world,
every pin prick of light with purpose,
something more than beasts waiting
to be discovered by those willing
to risk the sharp-toothed and clawed.
The future was still as unformed as
heaven, a wish in need of language.
An idea, not yet named, was unborn,
but already more than flesh, a shape
revealing itself, imagery evoked
in unreliable light. It is possible,
still, to imagine chanting in caves
newly decorated, a single syllable
repeated with the lilt of sudden awe.
Though such comfort proved elusive,
the land violent and cruel, so little
to be done about suffering despite
spears and clubs readied nearby,
whatever else might be said lost
in eviction or death, that gallery
given over, as it often is, to brutes.
Copyright 2022 Gary Fincke
Gary Fincke has won numerous awards for his writing, including the Bess Hokin Prize from Poetry Magazine. He lives in Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania.
I really like the 3rd & 4th block!!
LikeLiked by 1 person
And it’s a few days after the day I finally sold my late husband’s Nip it pinball machine ( like the one Fonze played) and the new owner sent a picture of a score sheet inside. My husband’s and stepson’s games 1978, the guy knew what he was getting. I continue to lighten the load for when the kids have the chore of figuring out why I saved so much stuff, a time I don’t care anymore.
A wonderful poem, inspiring and defined by familiar symbols and metaphors. Love it!.
Thanks, Sam. I love the poem as well.
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