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Winter 1998, Volume 15.1

Poetry

 

S. Ramnath


S. Ramnath (B.S., SUNY-Albany) is currently an elementary school teacher. His work has appeared in
The Review of Contemporary Fiction, Christian Science Monitor, and Voces Fronterizas, among others.

 

Mario

I
The windless straight of October pines
standing like a field of punctuation marks
stirs and agitates the art of seven years,
as lovers rise
from tempestuous meetings
carrying the grotesque gestures of love…

It took Mario three years to realize
that a wife and a mistress is a difficult combination to keep.

Deception is an easy art.
Conscience a hard monkey to shake off.

Have you met kindness in the face of a woman
meandering through?
In the shallow, slanted light of the evening
while sea gulls looked into a sea of pain,
touching everything,
Mario felt restless
like a stream carrying a large load on a rugged path.

In the Carolinas, Mario remembered a farmer's words:
"Never had no time for them kids, you see," and saw clearly
the angular weather-beaten face. A touch of sadness.
A desperate struggle to engage time into the teeth of meaning.

A desperate feeling that things are too late crept over Mario.
Like a three-shoed clown in a carnival he watched
the meaningless mirth of strangers, felt strangely
about familiar things, even the kitchen table
with its bowl of half-eaten cereal carried some madness.

And loving was a different matter when the deep well got deeper
with deceptive resonances. The sudden cold touch of skin at night.
"Is this a kind of death?" Mario asked himself.
"I must look back now. I must go back to simple things."

II
At thirty new decisions
seemed hard to make.
The unalterable law said:
old things have security.
"What unfetters and grants freedom?"
Mario wondered.

After the insomniac light
had crept into the window night after night
drumming up new arguments, the old marriage
was saved by Annie's frightened eyes
peering through the small crack in the door.

How things change, Mario thought.
Each time he thought he had measured the light,
or marked the currents where the hawk was in flight,
the world had moved a different mile to a different height.

Mario looked into the blue eyes of the morning.
The songs of phalanx of men and women
danced like tall grass, moved like the moon,
and at the periphery a slow procession moved quietly
to a somber tune.

Only death held certainty.

III
The color of the evening sky
was blue like the blue throat of the pheasant
as Mario walked up Petersberg Hill.
The vineyards were December-bare
with no memories of September's grapes,
and the blackbirds were all gone.

Mario felt sad about the departure of things,
and he tried to reconcile in his mind a meaning
for the tapestry of voices that had put the fine end of a flame to question.

From the high window of Dallas Mario watched
ribbons of history unroll before frightened eyes.

In narrow, dark corridors of Avenue B
he watched the cornered anxiety of Heroine Children.

He watched the theater of D-Day recreated;
the crisp military ceremonies that laid to rest
Vietnam's unknown soldier.

In Bavaria he heard voices
that echoed through yellow-leaved pines
stirring up memories of two wars and more.

In New Delhi he saw the shadowy figure again,
the one who intrudes in spite of the daily vigil we keep.

In Texas he heard a passionate speech for prayer in school.

In Ethiopia he saw the dead child of a dead mother.

In Teheran he heard the cry of millions
wanting to die.

History is a continuum, Mario thought,
whose minor details intrude into our lives
like the stealthy approach of a cat
into a quiet house,
and we are surprised
when the cat roars like a tiger
and shows us blood-streaked paws.

 

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