Saturday, April 28, 2018

Hitch Your Horses...

—Poems and Photos by James Lee Jobe, Davis, CA

Pearl River. Night.
Suddenly shining a flashlight
Across the dark water at night,
I can see the eyes of several alligators
Before they slip under,
Slipping down below
Like submarines with cold souls.
There are owls and frogs
Making their lovely noises,
And every so often
There is the yell of a frog
That has been taken suddenly
By a water moccasin.
Nature sets a hard table.
Magnolias and willows make a roof
That is lit by the campfire.
Beyond that?
The moon, the stars, the universe,
And maybe Heaven.
On one side of the river is Mississippi,
And on the other is Louisiana.
Man has a need for borders,
But alligators don't.
Walking to the edge of the river,
I shine the flashlight again,
And again the eyes go down,
But this time closer, much closer. 

I kept one prisoner in the brick oven,
And I kept another in a lovely wooden box that a friend built.
Dark angels watched over them.
Those were the hottest days of a Texas summer.
Horseflies buzzed them, nibbling at their wounds,
Tasting the salt in their sweat, tasting their blood.
And me? I worked in the pine woods,
Clearing a right-of-way for power lines.
I knelt in churches that had no pews,
Churches that were built of unpainted wood,
And I prayed for relief.
I walked the thankless miles carrying a chainsaw and a can of fuel.
I carried more prisoners in the pockets of my overalls,
And in my boots.
I fed them the lies my father told me,
Those same lies that your father told you,
And though their sentences were harsh,
They were not hungry.
In this way justice was served.

All through the empty night I walked the dirt lane,
Feeling my way along with my cane, my eyes covered
By a white cloth tied around my head. Just for fun,
For a laugh, the executioner had set my cap on top of it,
To mock my worldly and pointless pride. Death followed,
Carrying that damn scythe. Crows came too, hungry.
Every step was a mile long, and every minute lasted
An hour. The air was dry and still, I could many sounds;
The heavy footsteps, the ragged breath, the crows' wings
Beating in flight. I could hear Death following behind me,
As she always has, as she always will. As it is with you, too.
We all walk that lane as far as we can, never quite as far
As we hope for, and damn few of us ever see the end.
Eventually the scythe just suddenly whistles through the air. 

We are ready now to suffer.
We have plucked the feathers
From the wings of the angels.
All of the ice cream is gone. 
The dog wears a look of shame
Or sadness, even though nothing
Has happened that involved him.
We have buried all of our parents.

We are ready now to suffer.
First came joy, then sorrow.
We are ready now for what
Comes next, the inescapable.
This is the numbing of the masses.
This is what will happen when
The prisons outnumber the schools.
Our coffins have all been purchased.

We are ready now to suffer.
Bring on the hair-shirts and the sweat.
Bring on the guilt, oh yes, the guilt.
Lower all of your flags to half-mast,
And hitch the horses to the hearse.
We are ready now to suffer.
We knew that this day would come.
We are ready now to suffer.

 James Lee Jobe

Time is what it is, and so is the world.
What could I ever do about that?
I am getting older. Spring has again returned
To my valley, right on time. Any night now,
The sound of the crickets will also return,
And I will again sit out on the patio
Watching the moths fly around the one light.
I have nothing to sacrifice,
And I have nothing to gain.


Sharks have entered the river, just a little ways,
Where there is some salt in the water.
Silver-white and beautiful in their pride and strength.
They are not ferocious with cruelty, like mankind;
They live only as they must.
And in broken days the trees call out for storms and lightning,
Not like a man who wishes for death, but like a congregation
That hopes for a minister with more fire, more heat.
Who doesn't want that?
Wolves live beyond the laws of man,
And they don't give a damn who cares; that is a life worthy of respect,
A life that claims its own passion, as hard as steel.
James, there is that which is not, and that which is;
This your own life to choose, yours.


Today’s LittleNip:

If your plate is empty, bring it to me, and I will fill it.
Should you be cold, I will light the fire.
When the day is hard and heavy, return to me here.
I will carry the burden for as long as we both shall breathe.
In this life I will take your part, you do not walk alone.

—James Lee Jobe


Many thanks to James Lee Jobe for today’s inspiring poems and pix on this big day of poetry in our area, with the Sac. Poetry Center Writers’ Conference 2018 in Sacramento, beginning at 9am; the Sierra Nevada Poetry Festival 2018 in Grass Valley, beginning at 10am, and Poetic License poetry read-around in Placerville from 2-4pm. Scroll down to the blue column (under the green column at the right) for info about these and other upcoming poetry events in our area—and note that more may be added at the last minute.


 —Anonymous Photo
 Celebrate poetry!

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