Archive: September 1999  |  View all recent posts
September 01, 1999

Puddle

Poem — ©Jeff Franks

Sunday visits to my mother-in-law's meant fried chicken
crispy and golden
mashed potatoes that were peeled and not poured
fresh picked green beans
snapped at the rim of the pot
cucumbers and onions peacefully
coexisting in the bitterness of vinegar
and gallons of iced tea
sweet and cold
justified by a skillet of crusty corn bread

A perpetual breeze seemed to wander the maze that was her home
white and pink
a witless animal
bouncing off walls
moving like an apparition wearing a sheet
through corridors and into rooms
until it crawled like a damp towel across my face
stealing my breath like a cold slap
before being sucked out through a screen door
and into the swelter that is north Georgia in July

Baseball emanated from the television
a slow lazy drama
a colorful and clumsy opera
punctuated by frequent and noisy commercials
and rarer and even noisier offensive outbursts
a seductive and sedative pastime
compelling my feet onto the ottoman
and my eyes to roll back inside my head
and during these glorious naps
on such heavenly afternoons
all things were right in my dreams
and my dreams were everything to me

On these forages for things spiritual
I had a companion
an effeminate and well-maintained rodent
"Eric the House Broken"
covered in champagne
disposed to all things French and ignoble
a personality dominated by human characteristics
but a functionary overcome by his form and nature
remaining more, than less, canine at a tally of the chromosomes
despite his needs or wants or dreams
a poodle who became a puddle in my lap
who made my thigh a pillow and my groin his bed

Awakening from a conquest of a feline
his expression implied complexity
a genuine intelligence
behind the black abyss of his eyes
I could see a small flame
and etched upon his retina, a missive
an entreaty, not unlike the request of Dorothy's comrades
brains, heart and courage - tangibility - awareness
but alas, these gifts are not given to lesser creations
so shamed by God's indifference
he tucked his tail
laid back his ears
and bounced off the walls
disappearing into the darkness of the other rooms

It was later
with footprints across the cusp of my adolescence
and one foot sinking into maturity
an ocean and a culture away
that I would hold those soggy pages in the swelter that is Thailand in July
and read of Eric's premeditated demise
imagined his eyes reflecting the merciful needle
the end of his long suffering and loneliness
his gentle loss of comprehension
and his troubling awareness of time
I envisioned the now cold furnace behind his stiff dampers
and at once an oppressive heat encircled me

I felt sweat beading on my green brow
awaiting the suck of gravity before traveling down my face
eroding my camouflaged façade
my tears fell like hail stones seeking the warmth and immediacy of the surface
and I drained my pain into a muddy puddle
where a leech moved like a slinky
unperturbed beneath the ripples
a 'boonie hat ' helped keep my secret
the green face beside me was listening to a noiseless speck on the horizon
a mechanical blemish tethered to the CCP by his radio
he, preoccupied with ascension
while I descended

That night
I watched through the NODs
and listened when it was my turn
I quietly thumbed my safety as a gibbon cautiously approached on all fours
his eyes ablaze with intelligence as his mouth opened to speak
relieving himself ignominiously on a small teak just outside of the perimeter
he then crawled forward until he was within my breath
I saw my reflection in his peculiarly familiar eyes
he whispered "Bottom of the ninth, Braves 5, Dodgers 4"
my head snapped up as my eyes focused sharply
a gibbon was crawling away
outside of the perimeter
bouncing off the rubber trees and disappearing into the darkness
I had had a glorious nap
on such a heavenly evening
but things were not right in my dreams
and my dreams meant nothing to me anymore
life was hard
my ruck was heavy
and grown men cried like children
I rolled onto my back
into a muddy puddle
at last my tears were gone
but a curious clarity now replaced them
I looked out of
and into
the vastness of God's beautiful handiwork
and realized time was now troubling me
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