Saturday, February 17, 2018

The Mercy of Years

—Anonymous Photo
—Poems by James Lee Jobe, Davis, CA

Sunshine and eighty degrees today.
I am an old, empty house with no trees,
huge and alone on the swell of a rise,
at the edge of the horizon.
The dead who once lived in me sleep now
in a small plot at my feet,
their children have long since moved away.
No one laughs or makes love here anymore.
My history has merged with memory.
Morning comes without a rooster to announce it,
and I am illuminated.
Beautiful light fills my dusty windows
and warms my silent halls.
If I had eyes I would close them now.
If I had arms I would raise them to heaven.


Some mornings it seems as if this war will never end. The sun is cold, and has failed to awaken the world this morning. The clouds hang still in the windless sky. All is silent. Has the day begun, or does it only appear that way? I am not sure. I feel a numbness, a heaviness in my chest. In Afghanistan it is early evening, and in the villages there are families eating, talking, praying, or perhaps getting the smaller children ready for bed. On the American airstrips the drone bombers are being refueled. Soon it will be dark. Some of those people will not see another sunrise.

 —Photo by James Lee Jobe

Some days life itself is a minister preaching a sermon to me. The sermon for today seems to be about patience. The sun is far too slow for me, and my best cursing doesn't help. I am a shipwrecked man watching for a boat that will never come. It is lonely on this uncharted island. And I am alone, there is no one here but me. But I need more than a boat, don't I? I need patience.


Late afternoon, the shadows are long.
No one gets very close to me anymore.
That is fine; I don't want them close.
Death plays tag with me.
Death touches me, and I touch Death,
And then Death touches me again.
It is a game we play, a serious game,
But a game nonetheless, my friend.
Stay back. Death and I play for keeps.

 —Photo by James Lee Jobe

In my sleep I find a blessing. In the dream I helped a teenager get his car started on the side of a busy highway. I also helped a very old woman who had an impossible tangle of packages and bags to carry, and then I bought some food for a hungry lady who was hiding in alley, so dirty that she was ashamed to come out onto the street. Later in the dream, an angel came to me and told me that all three people had really been the spirit that human beings call Jesus, who often walked the earth to remind us that kindness existed to bless us all. I fell to my knees and cried, begging forgiveness for the days when I had not been very kind, and I woke up with fresh hot tears on my face.


I have decided that I do not respect text messages. Words that fall out of a telephone. A conversation without a human voice. An ugly shorthand. Someone who could have just as easily spoken to you. The mountain apes keep their hands free, and I like that. My thumbs are large and the keys for typing are so small and ridiculous. Texting reminds me of the very small people who tied up Gulliver. And I so do not wish to be tied up. 

 —Photo by James Lee Jobe

I have written psalms that you haven't read,
and perhaps I will never show them to anyone.

I wrote them for That Which Is Greater,
not for humans.

They are prayers that soar upward and inward
at the same time.

They are like owls that hunt
in the deepest throes of night.

I rise, too, like owls, and follow them
through the dark heavens.


Leaping from the tall mountain, I fall gracefully. Clouds dance to the music of my passing as I glide above the tops of pine trees. This is the tune of the years that I have lived. Nesting owls marvel at my beauty. All the sky is a republic, but I am not a citizen. Rain moistens my chapped lips, and far below people gasp, knowing that I will die. Alone, I had leaped from the mountain top. With my last thought I decide that I am not falling down, no indeed! The earth is racing up to catch me.

 —Photo by James Lee Jobe

Eventually, all journeys come to an end. Years had passed since a casual glance in the mirror told you that your time was slipping away. In the quiet of a not-so-distant day you will disappear into the sunlight. Yes, sunlight; it will pass through the glass pane of the window like time, like decades sliding down the snowy hill of your life, and with it will go your deeds, your creeds, the echoes of your time spent. You will become light, weightless, like Aladdin on his carpet for that first flight, and so shall your last flight begin.


Today’s LittleNip:
—James Lee Jobe

There is a mercy of years
That spares us this day,
That spares us this night.
In shadows or in the light
We make our own way
In spite of our mortal fears.
And still the end nears;
Time will yet dim our sight.


—Medusa, with many thanks to James Lee Jobe for today’s fine poems and pix, and reminding you that Poetic License poetry read-around takes place in Placerville today, 2-4pm, at the Placerville Sr. Center. Scroll down to the blue column (under the green column at the right) for info about this and other upcoming poetry events in our area—and note that more may be added at the last minute.

 —Photo Courtesy of James Lee Jobe
Celebrate Poetry!

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