Thursday, August 4, 2011

Beggar’s Night

Our father had already vanished in his black jeep.

Skinned-ghosts floated over darkened houses

As we kicked away the hard, green skulls

Of walnuts scattering our path.

In the flickering rains, our grocery sacks burst

While candy in bright paper fell like gems.

Out of evening’s brew, an old woman in red, velvet cap

Led her hunchbacked whose eyes turned inward

As if focusing on bumblebees. We tried not to scream,

But ripped past in long skirts made from pillowcases,

Escaping the cabbage soup smell of unwashed bodies.

Street lamps eked a frosty, plum-colored light.

Doors squeaked open even before knocked on.

Screens of black and white TV sets fluttered, framing

The grim face of Russian gypsy Maria Ouspenskya

As she opened a clumsy actor’s palm to reveal a star:

Even a man who’s pure in heart

And says his prayers by night

May become a wolf when wolf bane blooms,

When the moon is full and bright.

But that was Hollywood and this was forty miles

West of Left-Hand, West Virginia.

In the nearby woods, the orange eyes of a barn owl

Blinked mechanically. Tiny bats mewed in the eaves.

In our black clothes, we were angels

Already fallen once we spilled into the streets.

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