- Aubade, and: The Beast of Burdens
The soundless opalescence of distant knolls& gin,the neck & collar& chain of the dog woundwrench-tightto a stake, the ever-so-delicate cooingof a starving. . .& gin,the moon out coldfloppedin the gutter, JFK's head spilled& cradled in pink so commonis beauty in this world.
The Beast of Burdens
"Dying men draw numbers in the air."—Jackson Browne
And so they do.
Dying men with nothing leftsave to dream, think, then suffer, thensink.
Three weeks before he died my father called to apologize.He could no longer "haul the load," "pull the wagon."
It was the first time I'd heard my father apologize for anything—ever.
In a family where men thought themselvesdraught horses—he was king of the barn.
50 years ago he drove me to the Ringling Bros.Barnum & Bailey Circus. A man with six-guns& a sequined shirt led a golden palominointo the center ring.
The orchestra's drummer began a slow drumroll.The horse began to lift & lower its front hooves, slavishlyinto the sawdust: 1, 2, 3, 4,
5, 6, 7, 8,9, 10—as the audience counted along then burstinto applause. [End Page 501]
These were the very same numbers my father worshipedfor years—to keep our family fed, the car on the road,the roof above our heads—a slave to our unfillable
well of want—untilhis last days—dazed on liquid morphine, oxycontin& the rest—his bony fingers drawing numbers in mid-air:
1. . .2. . . . . . .3. . . . . . . . . . .5. . . . . .4. . . . . .6. . . . . . . .7. . . .8—his family beside his bed & my father—8. . . .10—over& over & over again—waiting,
counting, waiting, counting, waitingon the applausewhich never came. [End Page 502]
Robert Nazarene is founding editor of Margie: The American Journal of Poetry and the IntuiT House Poetry Series. His volume of poems is CHURCH. His work appears in Ploughshares, Salmagundi, Callaloo, Prairie Schooner, Stand (UK), and elsewhere.