the Humbled Slaughter

by Timothy John Stafford


perhaps i would grow to be king of this courtyard, rich with rain and bonsai; an old bear, blood retired and holding what i could of the new tide in my cupped hands, gnarled by time and labor. i’d have braved the rails, from Chicago to the bay, eyes open and wild, pressed against foreign landscapes that turned on spindles, reels upon reels, prairie grass webbed and waving on the breeze like many arms reaching long towards the heavens. perched upon my chair, lost in candor, adrift upon the ether, unaware of societal noise, unaware of seed and legacy, only time, maple sap in my weathered veins, sand and salt, mixed in sacks, tied with twine to my curled frame, my eyes will turn down and my face will twist up in a smile. i will sit here and watch quickened breaths, stretch and curl endlessly
climbing rung upon hidden rung into the sunless sky, whose air has known kings and mongrels, gods and whores, numb nuts and knuckle fucks and i will feel the peace that surrender offers to the last soldier who dresses in the blood of all those who once stood about him all those beasts of burden all those fathers and sons and i will remember the fallen, those lost to love and war and death and fame and game and cruelty and fascism and consumerism and all the rest, those stalwarts of filth and industry,
          those blue collars gone to brown,
          old brown hair now tendered white,
          rugged white teeth turned yellowed crown,
          once proud eyes now bereft of sight,
          strong hands curled turned gnarled boughs,
          a commanding tongue given subtle breeze,
          that long straight spine now canyon road,
          as hearts surrender to the black disease.
                                                                      i will choose not to move until the sun has dipped and the weight of the darkness itself settles in and carries me off. i will then enfold, in upon myself, layers upon layers upon layers, a ship that sails each night, silent and stoic upon that blackened sky a bed of feathered dust will await me each dusk, behind a threshold i would, today, never brave. i will be the captain of tomorrow, heralded in future pulp as a man offset by time, loved by many women and revered by all men. and still,

                                      if i might press my hands beneath my
                                      eyelids fold myself back into push along the
                                      viscous avenues i may find those whose
                                      faces i can no longer hold we called her
                                      grandma brick because her hair flew scotch
                                      irish flag she raised titans blood and dirt
                                      men who lived in caves and sailed beyond
                                      their names are etched into my bones but i
                                      must tear at my flesh to find them they are
                                      lost amongst the muddy dreams of boys and
                                      even if i were to flee to the outermost edges
                                      of the stars i could never escape the
                                      drowning we are who we are one we are still
                                      born face down in the gene pool they are in
                                      the shape of my face and in the tenor of my
                                      voice dirt beneath my nails and freckled arm
in an instant, i’ll snap to, rise from my throne and move past my small garden to the yard. the night brings quiet the day will never accept. it has its own sound, one that buzzes somewhere below and within. i will stop short of the grass and remove my shoes, respect for the sanctity she has brought here to us, respect for the candor and grace mother has always met us with. i will step forward and curl my toes, digging them down into the grass cold and the soil wet i can even now feel the Earth vibrating beneath me, stirrings and hums the static of life forever in tune forever in turn and for a moment, i will be able to close my eyes and feel the axis of the world, and the spinning of this world with others, around and around in the infinite expanse. i will drop to my knees, my fingers push themselves into the grass, then beneath, the cold earth under my nails and around my hands. i find a womb,
                                                                      a pocket that will take me
                                                                                                                   beyond this and into that.
i press further, the crease enveloping me to my elbows, then my shoulders. she will accept me, welcome me into her fold and lovingly embrace my old bones. my head will push in and my body follows, until there is nothing left but the quiet and the earth folding back in upon itself.
for a time i was the bear king, strong and brash heads above the normal folk i was a would be god with a tin man heart and a scarecrow brain i would deceive and climb amongst the braided souls of all those who had wandered before i am and was. i found my queen and orbited her sun a satellite reflecting unaware that time gives and takes, ebbs and flows, ignorance and invincibility as careless lovers in an reckless affair.


my queen

a man without someone to fight for is a man with nothing to fight for.
i would not look up to her
i would not look down at her
i would look across to her and she to me
i would breathe for her and she would speak for me

i would hold her hand as she is tethered to this world by only strands
i would see words in her eyes that she would be unable to bring to her lips
the amazon worn down and defeated
a warriors concession
i would hold her hand
and strip myself of my own flesh and bones
sit by her side
as an old adventurer
struggling to decipher
those final secrets

i am but the old bear king
the humbled slaughter
might God have mercy


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