Wednesday, July 2, 2008

[untitled Allentown epilogue] something old revisited

Sometimes a synchronistic moment occurs. You work on a poem you haven't thought about in years. Then you hear about the person the poem was dedicated to.

I worked on this yesterday after having forgotten about it for years. Then today a call comes with news about the person, a close friend. The news was hard news.

Speaking not as a poet but as a person, this is one that reminds me a lot of my friends. Looking at it as a "work" that might be part of a longer work, I have to say this is the first time it made any sense to me, i.e. I can see where it fits into a bigger story, finally. I think this will be the end of a book I've had in the works for a very long time....

[untitled Allentown epilogue] for P.F.H.

“D’jou hear that?”
The screams were so piercing
through the jukebox, the clamor,
I nudged Bill, alert amid the beer,
the smoke and blaring.
He nodded—we left the crowd
for the almost stifled street.
No cars running,
no drunks singing,
no pedestrians—
just the muffled roar of the bar.
But then across the street
and across the corner
we heard the scream again
and slamming doors,
boots clomping down some stairs—
an exploding front door,
a slim figure fleeing.
She fell on her knees on the sidewalk,
curled over herself, pulled into herself
as if the concrete could hide her.
He charged out shouting over and over,

His fists just above her raised.
I shouted, “HEY! LEAVE THAT
He turned, lurched toward us,
then Bill grabbed me,
dragged me into his car,
revved and pulled it out of his spot,
aimed his headlights straight at them.
The woman looked at us
while slowly crawling away from him.
He threatened her to go inside—
she shouted back she’d never.
Then he set to kick her hard.
Bill floored the gas, and he looked up, froze;
meanwhile, Bill apologized:
“I’m sorry I stopped you.
He could be armed.
But we’re safe in here.
He can’t see us very well,
but we can watch his every move.
And the motor’s running....”
We watched them argue in Bill’s headlights:
the wraith hesitated, then retreated inside.
She stayed prone, shaking in sobs.
Then Bill parked again—
we didn’t know what to do.
She looked over at us,
her eyes full, curious.
Her face was puffy,
much younger than I’d thought—
a quavering cat too scared to move.
Then Pam opened the bar door,
phone in hand, urging,
“Get in here! I called the cops already.”
She pulled me in by my shirt.
“Do you wanna get killed?”
Tearing myself away,
and going back in, then,
I realized the answer
must have been

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