Monday, July 28, 2008

Poem of the Week #30

Tom Remembers

Brother, go find your brother. –Tom Sawyer

It was I could always find the lost marble,
and I who knew we had to go by the book.
I knew that the busted captive must endure
the torments of snakes and spiders to write
his heart message in blood on a tin plate,
pass it to his friends through the upper window.
I knew his leg irons must be sawed off proper,
not just slipped easy under the bed post.

If ever we won a battle, it was because
I knew the timing of the whack to the back
of the head, I knew the right curse to howl.
I knew the shoulder shove and chin thrust,
when to pull up and when to charge. I held
the crime-crusted cutlass in my pirate’s bag
and I knew when the deed was done.
I could trade up no matter what the price.

But you, you knew of the undersides of things;
of fallen tree trunks and the dust of doorways.
You knew where to find bullfrogs and castoffs
and how to spend an entire day in hot pursuit
of nothing, save for the hum of the honey bee
and the whisper of wind through meadow grass.
You knew how to thwart witches and the evil eye.
You had the least and most of any boy in creation.

We parted ways as grown men do, and I always
dreamed we’d meet again one day. I heard you
went down to dig the Panama Canal, and stood by
on the ground when the Wrights first flew.
You rode a while with the Rough Riders, but fighting
never really suited you. So many oaths mixed the blood
of our youth—when I sit at my desk by the window,
I feel you trickle through me, a river I still follow.

Lisa Vihos

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