Three Poems by Carl Boon

  • September 23, 2021
  • Poetry

Grandfather said Mercy
flows from these streams.
His ragged voice, the voice
of corn blown asunder
by November, always stuttered
Mercy’s M but capitalized it.
A man who gave mercy
a fierceness, he’d saunter
among the woods for days
with nothing to eat save pone
cooked in smoke, the way
his ancestors had, rebels
and the Catawba, their blood
a part of his, their bones
mingling in the family plot.
We listened to him because
when he spoke he looked down
and when he invoked
the Gospels he looked ashamed.
I wanted to be him.

I wanted to be gray-faced
and hated by the Yankees
in the suburbs past Carleton.
I wanted to gnaw sarsaparilla
and think of death as a yonder
where the redwinged blackbirds
carry messages marked secret.
I wanted to be him, lathe-ace,
comrade, maker of moonshine
before the mayor intervened.
Bowling captain, baritone
in the Baptist choir, learnéd
though unread. Too bad his world
would never be mine; too bad
Bill McKinley never went
more south than Lexington.

The twentieth century’s coming
and we are dying. Oblivion’s
a thing that never matters.
The old man died lucky.
The old man died in a suit.

This won’t be conveyed
in your histories. It won’t be told
to boys in Cleveland, Detroit,
New York, or San Francisco,
boys whose dreams conclude
with baseball and California.
They won’t know the way
we cornered fidgety sows,
the way his kisses tasted
of whiskey, or why he leaped
toward the soil when the world
was immersed in automobiles.
Blunt, particular with the angels
and a ball-peen hammer,
he made things only he
could use: hammocks
for the brokenhearted, pipes
of bad design, a jigsaw puzzle
from a chess board he baptized
Kill the Pawn. Sebastian
did stupid, but he did it with glee
and his own satisfaction.
What more might you ask
of a man? What must remain?

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