After so much time you think you'd have it netted in the mesh of language. But again it reconfigures, slick as Proteus. You're in the kitchen talking with your ex-Navy brother, his two kids snaking over his tattooed arms, as he goes on & on about being out of work again. For an hour now you've listened, his face growing dimmer in the lamplight as you keep glancing at your watch until it's there again: the ghost rising as it did that first time when you, the oldest, left home to marry. You're in the boat again, alone, and staring at the six of them, your sisters & your brothers, their faces bobbing in the water, as their fingers grapple for the gunwales. The ship is going down, your mother with it. One oar's locked and feathered, and one oar's lost, there's a slop of gurry pooling in the bottom, and your tiny boat keeps drifting further from them. Between each bitter wave you can count their upturned faces--white roses scattered on a mash of sea, eyes fixed to see what you will do. And you? You their old protector, you their guardian and go-between? Each man for himself, you remember thinking, their faces growing dimmer with each oarstroke.
Paul Mariani - 1940-
The Great Wheel
In the Tuileries we came upon the Great Wheel rising gargantuan above the trees. Evening was coming on. An after-dinner stroll, descending by easy stages toward the river, a bridge of leaves above us, broken here and there by street lights coming on. Our time here nearly over, our return home a shadow hovering. Paris, city of returns, you said, for the pleasure of it, like the Great Wheel looming there above us, all steel & light & music, daredevil daunting, against the evening sky with the tower in the distance winking. The leaves still held firmly, the unthinkable descending of what lay ahead undreamt of still, death descending inevitably as the Great Wheel in its return, (a descent first through summer's golden leaves and then bare ruined branches), the Great Wheel turning & returning. As then, with the all but evening over us, our wives laughing by the entrance lights, we rose above the mansard roofs, the trees, the lights, lifting in a vertiginous ascent before descending, as we chattered on against the coming on of evening, our seat creaking in the rising wind, anxious to return now to earth's solidities. Instead, the Great Wheel merely sighed and lifted, stopping at the top, leaving each of us alone now with our thoughts. The leaves below, green, graygreen, gray, the dollhouse roofs, lights like diamonds winking, aloof & distant, the Great Wheel playing us, two middle-aged men, each descending toward the Wheel's one appointed end, the Great Return to earth, as the books all have it, come our evening. For all our feigned bravado, we could feel the evening over us, even as we stared down upon the blur of leaves, our wives, our distant children, on all we would return to, the way shipwrecked sailors search for lights along a distant shore, as we began the last descent, leaving the tents and Garden with its Great Wheel to return, my dear dead friend, to the winking lights along the boulevard, leaves lifting & descending, as now the evening air took mastery, it & the Great Wheel.