Monday, August 17, 2015

Summer in Athens, East Texas

Beware the undead, the unfulfilled vow,
the sin unavenged, the lust unsated,
the wrath unspent, the vengeance untaken.
The city is full of ghouls.

Elves do not fear the ghosts of men—
they sicken not; but men they do,
and fear of death gives hell the might
to turn us round and endless down.

We shared a burger at Dairy Queen,
in the long East Texas Summer,
the hot red brick below the wide panes.
We drove from Tyler with new clothes
in paper sacks— receipts, labels,
new clothes' smells, and my grandmother's perfume.

At home I looked out my window,
At the wood patch, hiding the cemetery.
In the wood patch was a buried cave
In the cave manacles wherewith
my great great grandfather had dragged
a runaway slave back back from New Orleans.

I removed the labels from the clothes.
An elf had taken refuge in the wood patch,
And brought his charm with him,
The magic of his home,
Which he shared with us, my grandparents and me.
I put on my new clothes,
And lay looking at the white walls
And fell asleep to elvish song.

When my elf left; it broke my heart.
Twas when the sorcerer came;
Deceits of a warlock drove my elf away;
The wood patch sickened, died.
Buried manacles breed sorcerers.

Where lay our honored dead,
(Dead, for the most part, of lust and drink,
Of sloth, greed, cruelty and pride) there
The slaves had once planted
Weeded, harvested the cotton,
And where the community college lies
And the country club: It was a large plantation,
But very few remember.
Forgetfulness breeds ghouls.

The one who once hears elvish song
Does not forget; the memory stays:
And one can face the shades,
Though not without trembling.
We are not elves, and elvish song
Is but a start, if freely given.

Here is a chapel, white and bright
where we both prayed and pray,
My grandmother and I. (For Prayer is timeless.)
Before the houseling house and cross.
The undead gather. Graves lie open.
All lust may spend itself as nails.
The veil is rent, manacles binding
Slave to master, and master to slave,
Are broken, and all made free.
There can the undead die at last,
Be planted. And angels sow
And weed and harvest their graves.
We all must die before we live.

1 comment :

  1. Extraordinary poem. In reading it felt as though Allen Tate and a ransom of others gathered near to hear a Southern voice speak truth and pain and art.