Monday Apr 22

Hathaway William Hathaway's most recent book of poems is The Right No, published by Somondoco Press.
At the End of the Pond Path
All morning long the raven mourned
her slain mate. Each barked guttural
shrill without let up. Just the usual
dust up they do over who owns where,
I thought, but when the yammer
neither ceased nor lessened I went
to see, following the pond path
until it petered out into sweet fern
and nasty brambles. From afar
her steady cries came like the back
and forth of a handsaw, but up close
each anguished haw rang out
like hammer blows. She hunched
on a low branch not far or too near
his crumpled corpse that to me
looked like an old feather duster
that had bounced out of a can
on the way to the dump. As she
bent into each cry, she looked neither
at him or away from him. As I
walked away, knowing what I’d come
to learn, she stopped and flapped
off in silence. Who killed him?
I wondered vaguely. Payment
for poking his beak in a wrong hole,
maybe. She knew, yet I knew
she never thought in a moral math
of causes or effects. Let no one
know your good works. Consider
how the raven never considers:
in grief, being grief itself.
Time to get our knuckles down
and drag them in the dust before us
like back in the day when a handshake
through the bars was enough
to earn us a peanut. Time to get back
to when one square was all
we had to count. Way back even before
we slithered forth on slick muck,
pumping bare gills in brute amazement.
I mean back to that first jerk of Desire
to eat someone else, to relive
that first approbative fullness of gut.
No need then to explain in Latin.
It was what it was, and we were just us
as we were, a hidden hand guiding us
like the planarian worm following
the little sun of a pocket penlight
in our school lesson. Time for history
to teach us a lesson we forgot by hearing
without listening to the radio all day
every day on our feet at the cash register
to keep our minds off our minds.
Now we’ll get that spanking we were promised
but never got when dad came home
drunk and wept on the porch in the dark
by the busted washing machine.
Time again to pull our belts so tight
one last hard little turd will squeeze out,
round and black as a walnut. For does not
the sea itself forever dip to swell?
Blame God with your free will, if you will,
and shriek in hell. Always thus.
See how an unseeable finger forever stirs
the cosmos so stars suck creams and oils
ever up over sluggish seas. A time of terror
now, readying for the time of horror. O
what wouldn’t our ravenous neighbors
do to learn the secret time of day we hoard
hidden under frayed cuffs or muffled deep
in voluminous bags where sugar
and ketchup packets await an exact tick
or tock when unseen hands will fumble
them forth into blinding light to be torn
asunder at their time of need.
      Before poetry can be political, it must be personal.
                                                                 Billy Collins
The town’s in rubble and a tiny Stride Rite shoe
lies so forlornly on its side in the littered road
before a building with its front blown off,
bringing home the horror-of-war so much more
poignantly than a tiny marmalade kitty
would with its little lion face twisted in a snarl
of agony because its back legs are gory mush,
though even that picture so graphically gross
and thus so un-aww-inspiring says so much more
than just saying how a shitty hate surges
in us watching the clip of the inconsolable child
holding her mother’s head with the face
blown off while a Hello Kitty knapsack, mute
in the midst of a scatter of spent shells,
would’ve been a shoo-in for the cover of Life
or Look back when the battle-grimed GI
asleep with a cigarette dangling from lax lips,
its tired ash on the verge of falling, just said
all there was to say with kitsch undisguised
by hip irony that you didn’t have to tie it up
and waterboard it to get the meaning out of it,
because crows are hopping in ruins
cluttered with numinous detritus with the same
diffident croaks and clucks of yesterday
before the tanks came, and somewhere else
a couple sprawls on a checkered cloth
in a field and while she’s straightening
deviled eggs in the dish that has little cups
for each one he’s merrily swatting ants
with her flip flop, and what this parable shows
is that no one gives a shit, though each reader
must decide alone the meaninglessness
of their own special choice, so what all
your details with the devil smirking in them
say to me all by myself is that the secret
keyword nestled inside the lament for the future
of the grandchildren is the pronoun “my,”
and since my neighbor believes he’ll need
an assault rifle, what can I do but say
nothing except keep my lawn mowed
and put out more flags?