Poem: Willow (from Counterpane)

I
NO SIGNAL

Not far from here, not long ago,
an old man heard the voice of God—
through his old radio.
He lived with Willow,
his son—the Mute,
who never spoke a word.
His father did not care, he knew,
that when he prayed God heard.
All was well until the day,
the signal seemed to fade.
where once was the voice of God,
a tawdry ballad played.

He stayed awake all night and tried,
through the darkness light to find,
and could not tune back in.
His digital dials attempted forever
though deep down he knew he’d never
hear God’s sweet voice again
The holy frequency was gone,
and that old man, now scared, alone,
to the basement did descend.
His saddened son above remained,
while his father went insane,
yet all he did was pray.
“Don’t leave him in the dark, like that,
why have you left, will you come back?”
and yet the silence stayed.
“Bring him back to grace, and home.
Don’t leave him in the dark, alone.”

He paced about the basement dark,
oft lit by radiator sparks.
A sick God seemed to rise;
In the twisted shape of his dad, late,
were tired and bloodshot eyes.
“The child must go,” the sick God said.
“There are devils in his head.
The child—the Mute—must die.

“I’ll give you the frequency,
so you can tune back into me;
you know just what to dial.
The sick God in his father’s skin,
faded into black again,
and ‘lone the old man cried.
It goes on now, to never end,
like that which did not begin.

II
FOR YESTERDAY

The silence stayed for several days,
on antique speakers never played,
the sublime songs of God delayed;
Just echoes of a man who screamed,
and tufts of smoke in slanting beams,
the day was sickly gray.
The old man with his knives in hand,
walked the quiet stairs to stand,
in Willow’s gold doorway.

And on the pillow,
lay there, Willow,
who silent cried for help.
He prayed for his father, and,
his lovely long lost mother Anne
but never for himself.
destiny weaves spider webs—
the tide comes in, the water ebbs,
leaving shells upon the shelf.

The disconnected loved ones mourn,
their life upon the shore forlorn,
where once they went to play.
The sunshine and the ocean breeze,
they made sandcastles by the sea.
When they were done—
down went the sun,
and then they tired lay.
The sun went down,
when Willow frowned—
a lament for the day.
That which never did begin
like a circle will not end.

III
ANGEL IN THE DESERT

The crazed old man sat by his son,
on a ragged racecar bed.
He said, “We have to talk, my son.”
Yet Willow turned his head.
He tucked him in, and sang his song
until his son had safely gone
to the dream world Gilead.

And while there, the pale blue air,
in dancing circles did not care,
and words passed through the sky.
Amidst the endless wheatfield stalks,
above he heard a lost crow squawk,
and his lost mother’s cry.

He ran blind into the field,
his hands before him grasped to feel,
and Willow came to find:
A radio and crying tape,
he knew at once he was too late;
the digital crying died.
It hacked and coughed,
and then shut off;
young saddened Willow sighed.

Willow in the wheatfield heard,
the sound of something like a bird;
he stood and looked around.
All he saw was trees, and quiet,
twisted trees their shapes beside it,
and the shrouds of silken clouds
looked just like his mother’s gown—
he chased it through the night.
Through the rows of stalks,
he heard his mother call.
He walked amongst the dying leaves
as they around him fall.

He found her on a quiet hill,
a breathing mannequin lying still—
he then walked up the slope.
He knelt and tried to hold her hand—
it slipped away like grains of sand,
and then turned into smoke.

Don’t cry for me,
my sweet, you’ll see,
at rest in El Dorado.
The wind picked up,
the voice was gone,
and he was on the hill alone,
until, at last, he thought:
How could what did not begin,
ever stop or ever end?

IV
THE MAN IN THE MIRROR

Beside him when he woke, there lay,
a hundred knives lay by his face.
as chalk around a corpse and facing in.
Outside his door his father wept—
and then with bloodshot eyes he crept,
from the basement to the den.
Willow wished to call his name—
he tried “I love you”—nothing came,
then silent Willow sighed again.

Underground his father watched,
the man in the mirror he forgot,
his mind was white noise now.
The ticking clock above had stopped,
like crumpled paper Roger dropped,
again he heard the sound.

The sun came up—to his surprise;
The radiator shrieked, and cried,
and static seemed to drown:
Roger stumbled to his feet,
and his eyes tired seemed the greet:
his father’s pictures spread around.

The more he stared—the wall,
which bore,
His father’s pictures smeared with
WHORE
written in blood,
like caked on mud,
he tore the pictures from the wall,
shouts his son heard down the hall—
with vertigo he stood.
The tempest of the moment gone,
he remained there, cold alone;
he tacked his father’s
blood stained pictures,
on the wall again:
only to take them off once more:
the circle never ends.

V
THE TREE THAT SEED BECAME TO BE

Willow had his mother’s eyes,
as blue as springtime azure skies;
his hair was tasseled, black.
He got his name from an old tree,
where his father asked his mother,
“Will you marry me?”
She said yes and they both sat,
together in one silhouette,
when love and life was free.

Five months later they were wed—
the newlyweds played in their bed,
and planted the seed.
over the months it steady grew,
until the seed itself had bloomed,
when Willow came to be.

And all the wond’rous years that followed—
one after another ‘morrow,
were joyful times for all;
They ate together, smiled, and laughed,
as hour after hour passed,
as an apple from a tree to fall.

VII
LIFE IN ONE STANZA GONE

All was well, and life was bright,
until wandered in that night,
when they played lost and found.
Willow splashed in pools of rain,
when a car passed in the lane,
and lifeless Anna hit the ground.
Her young son,
now frightened, stunned,
heard but a ringing sound.

Willow by his mother lay,
unable, as he wished to say,
mother I love you so.
He watched her life drain,
as she died,
he saw that frightened look,
her eyes,
and she dissolved like smoke.

Silent Willow, by the grave,
stood by as the reverend prayed:
“Let Anna find her rest.”
Even as hard as Willow tried—
he couldn’t hold back as he cried,
and Willow did his best.
They buried her beneath the tree,
the weeping willow in the spring—
in the orchard where they loved:
The sad and listless loves one lost,
in tears they stood above.

VII
IN FALL WHEN FALL THE LEAVES

Later on when he got home—
he stood in his room alone,
and wistful held his breath.
That poem, he thought,
that poem of old—
in lyricism quaint yet bold:
You are what you become, no less.

He could not live without his Anne,
but Willow did his best.
He met a lawyer late that night,
and found his mother’s locket white—
it dangled on his chest.
On each side, when open pried,
a picture of himself.

One of them, a child who cried,
the other—Willow smiling wide:
“You were the world to me, my son,
And now that you are gone—
I only want to tell you now,
I heard your every song.”

He did his best all of his life,
when terrified awake at night,
his mother’s ghost appeared:
Don’t you love me?
Can you say it?
The forlorn loved one leered.
Willow tried to speak again,
just silence with his mouth open:
his mother disappeared.

He lay there in the bed, at night—
his hands clenching the covers tight,
hoping his mother would appear.
And sobbing Willow on his pillow,
thought that he could hear:
the love and comfort in his mother,
be replaced by fear.

VIII
THE LIGHTHOUSE GONE

In the years that after passed,
Willow seldom—if all—laughed,
instead in silence moped;
his father waited in the hall—
with his back against the wall,
that his son would see the light—
the light of God at night to strike,
that he might hear the good Lord call—
though all he heard was silence, all;
the shadows danced the night.
Amidst the shadows that he saw—
the ones that up his wall had crawled,
his mother— his dead lighthouse bright.

Anna’s ghost transparent white,
came to Roger in the night:
I guess you’ve left me, nothing new,
my father and your father too.
I guess you’re gone,
and I have grown;
that’s what we always do.
We all leave, and in the end—
return to whence we came again,
and so the circle goes.

IX
THE NEVER ENDING VALLEY

The tragedy of those days gone,
his father underground, alone:
tacked pictures on the wall.
Where once was his father’s face,
his own sadness had replaced:
and above it, as with all:
he scrawled above his pictures, that,
what once was red was written black.
BASTARD in his blood he scrawled,
in his despair he heard a call—
the sickly God of old was back.
“If you wish to save your son,
I’m sure you know what must be done.”
and the voice slipped through the cracks.

Roger made the preparations,
for the junkie constellations.
The needle sighed, Roger, relieved,
Thought about his son and then,
saw the valley by the bend,
and felt the ocean breathe.
It was the song, that sing along,
the Earth’s soliloquy.
Roger was so close to drowning,
in a numb opiate sea

There amidst the rich green grass—
under a blue sky made of glass,
Roger was at peace.
Paradise was within sight—
where grew a never dying light:
the never-ending valley of the free.
And then he saw behind his eyes—
that far flung long gone night:
when laughing Willow, in the rain,
skipped through puddles as he sang,
his mother’s smile so bright.
And when she faded like a flame,
Roger had himself to blame;
he thought of Humpty Dumpty,
and saw it was his life:
and he thought that he was not
put back together right.

The quiet children, pale, naive,
lay in their beds in far off dreams—
of velvet skies and golden streams,
and watch the good Sol die by eve.
to lose it is not high a price,
and no one has to grieve.
Just a flicker of the eye,
Another pilgrim passes by,
as yet another leaves,
That which never did begin,
in no way could come to end.

IX
AUTUMN

Roger walked the stairs with care,
Looked through doorway, Willow there,
On his side and legs withdrawn.
For a moment Roger watched,
And all the moments he forgot,
Drowned him as the dawn.
He took the needle from his pocket,
and his mother Anna’s locket,
and then he shot the faun.

Willow woke and saw his dad,
in the chair beside his bed
with tear stains in his eyes—
What’s wrong daddy? Willow wrote
“I’m sorry,” Roger penned a note.
And nervous turned to leave.
But Willow drowsy wrote, to ask,
“Will you read to me?”

His father Roger turned around,
went by the bed and sat back down,
“Of course I can,” his father, pleased.
“What do you think that I should read?”
“On the bookshelf by the door—”
He wrote it down just like before.
“—was a book my mommy read to me.”
Before she died on Blossom St.

Roger pushed the chair and stood,
and walked across old planks of wood—
to his son’s bookshelf.
Sitting on top of clothes and socks,
Was an old book dog-eared at the top,
a book he’d bought himself.
A Child’s Garden of Verses,
he found the favorite verse of his;
and read it to himself:

When I was sick and lay in bed,
I had two pillows at my head,
And all my toys beside me lay,
To keep me happy through the day.

Sometimes for an hour or so,
I watched my leaden soldiers go,
With different uniforms and drills,
Among the bed clothes through the hills

And sometimes sent my ships in fleets,
All up and down amongst the sheets,
Or bright my trees and houses out,
And planted cities all about.

I was the giant great and still
That sits upon the pillow hill,
And sees before him, dull and plain,
The pleasant land of Counterpane.

He took a pillow from the bed,
and put it over Willow’s head:
Willow gasped but could not call,
His father pressed down on his nose,
that stained the pillow like a rose.
A minute passed, with his last gasp,
a silent child named Willow passed.

X
THE MURAL IN THE CLOSET

He took his body to the basement,
were he kept Willow’s replacement:
a gaudy harlot mannequin.
He unlocked the closet door,
and drug his son across the floor—
and the white noise came again.

He propped it up as Willow sat—
in Willow’s clothes and baseball hat,
and Roger grabbed the bin.
The pictures of young Willow spread
across the wall and down the halls.
The white noise came again.

Above the pictures lined in rows,
He wrote in thick white paint
WILLOW
he closed the closet door behind,
and tried to keep it from his mind,
he walked in an unsteady line;
to the sofa apropos.
The sound of static hissing, cracked,
it seemed the sick God had came back.

He tried to trace the source,
the sound,
and on the radio he found—
such an old song playing slow.
It reminded him of that lost day,
just him and Willow on the lake,
they climbed into the boat.

They made their way to deeper water,
and Willow smiled beside his father—
the winds of Spring began to blow.
They sang together in the breeze,
the thought made Roger hit his knees:
he changed the channel on the old,
radio he wish he’d sold;
tears were streaming down his face—
his heart had quickened in its pace:
and then he heard the Ghost.

He changed the channel, yet he heard,
a string of disconnected words,
all soft as they came in.
Behind the songs and sing-a-longs,
“Daddy what did I do wrong?”
As he had done all of his life,
Roger ran again.
As he passed a pane of glass,
Roger turned and saw, at last:
the sick God in the frame was him.

He hurried up the creaking stairs,
and opened up his dresser, where,
lay the only gun he had.
He ran back to the basement, and,
his wife and son stood hand to hand;
he put the magnum to his head.
After a flash he hit the ground,
slurring words he twitched around—
and Roger lay there dead.

Roger passed by in a dream,
as he unraveled at the seams:
trapped in his mind alone.
Frozen in a chair beside,
the ghost of Willow which replied:
“Daddy what did I do wrong?”
He repeated the question,
over and over,
The question went unheard,
and Roger could not reply.
There he was inside his mind,
and trapped he could not cry.

With silent Willow standing by him,
in vain he often tried:
to say those words, Will wished to hear:
just a simple, “Daddy’s here.”
Their souls are stuck—
between two worlds,
a silent circle not to end:
like that which did not begin.
And they came like water,
and as wind they go:
they’re all buried underneath,
that old and weeping Willow.

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