Literary Yard

Search for meaning

By: Will Hemmer


We all know (don’t we?) that a fly
buzzing against a windowpane
could be a metaphor (couldn’t it?).

At the dull whirr and bump
we acknowledge the futility,
admire, perhaps, the frantic persistence?

Restraining our urge to swat it
while we meditate,
couldn’t we,
having attained the proper sadness,
say: “My life is like that fly,
butting hopelessly at obstacles
I am too blind (too proud?)
to see,”
finding in this, perhaps,
in a romantic way,
philosophy’s (overrated?) consolation?

But what of that sadness?
The fly’s. (Or even our own.)
Is it pathetic to commiserate?
We can’t get what we wanted
(rich incident? love? tongues of fire?)
either. Times we wept, but…

tough luck…
haven’t we all said that?
…that’s life.
And sooner or later
don’t we all (poor us)
end up on our backs on the windowsill,
our hands empty of the bright blossoms
that sway against a beckoning sky?

Elegy for a Soldier

In the pulsing heat,
in the black cathedral of war,
the amber-tinted silver
of infra-red
illuminates a man.
Nimble in the moment
between the squeeze of the trigger
and the crack of the rifle,
he crouches and fires:
stalker and stalked at one
in the fluttering night.

the breath still held,
a song arises, unbidden and sweet,
and the pulsing heat and the heart conspire
to draw from the murmuring air
an echo, smiling,
of a fond face.

Drawn on the rim
of this well of resonance
in the foul, sweltering dark,
other forms come forth, insistent,
trembling too
for song.

But tensing toward them,
at the start of recognition,
the ragged edge of hope,
his heart bursts,
the song dies.

Me and Mike Riley

(A Remembrance)

I’d have been there when you,
in a cluttered room in a Berkeley boarding house,
read Hume and lived on cheese and bread
and never made love and or even talked to anyone.

I’d have been there when you,
rocked awake from southeast Asian dreams
of rank, expectant jungle trails,
became yourself a refugee in 3 a.m. hallways,
flashes of gunfire at your edge of vision,
certain of some lurking violation
in the elephant grass.
A phantom fleeing phantom.

I’d have been there when you,
proud of your wiry body that had hiked the Sierras,
realized too late and fell through the doors
of Oakland General, where a black cleaning woman
sat beside your bed and held your hand
and got you singing hymns till you stopped crying,
and, warmed by her warm-voiced murmurs
“Sorrow jus’ ol’ sorrow” and “Jesus is Lawd”,

But how can I explain?
In another town
I paid the electric bill
and kept a tight grip on the wheel.
Apprehensive, I listened to the news,
dying in the details of the days,
the impoverished gestures
of my workaday life.

Sorrow is sorrow
and gone is gone,
yet even now,
unable to make…
I float,
in a bubble
of anger and regret,
out of plumb
with myself
and the earth.

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