Dedication on the Occasion of the Next War and Its Memorial, by Red Slider

This bell has but one tone
rung over the heads of tourists
on the village spread below in brown
patois, an even sound to draw them on
their somnambulant intent.

Where they go,
(they go bent under the weight of slow sand)

they go oblivious
of wheat underfoot

they repeat
the shuffle of
old men ground
at the mill, they stack
their faces rolled thin
and various.

On occasion one will remark
It has been a load, Sam.
There is that to be said,
steadfast and reliable until it was past time,
when the overdo-ness of it finally sunk in
and the one would lay down

and the next,
but we need not repeat
the ring will hammer
thin sheets of twilight
into hope

hard won, these stars
cold and metallic: touch one,
old ones die, and one by one

each of the sons try on
the shadows of their fathers
the fathers fall away,

ghostly and pale thin
drawn in a circle
puffed (of) air blown against
the ring of the glass
that hath but a tone
              a tone

as if all, so certain, bring
surprise, a ringing near
their eyes
to rise against
the falling of the curtain

with all determination
to try again, but why?


We had hoped,
and all that hope was
on that day they tried
in unshod feet

-- the trod of supplicants
to a thirsty well --

and which of us who knew,
knew our place, ever knew
when it was done, but hoped,
more's the pity or the grace,
that we didn't, they would
and we could only stand

idle by
idle by

in the shift of these [said] sands

(oh, how lovely that sounds then)

the ring of it that now resounds,
mere stones clink down the sides
that slope away into the night
on a penny's toss of hope

and how easily we might,
in silence, condescend

now it is spare
song in such
thin apparel

but how the people
sway to and fro
on their way
from here to there

and their families collide
in estimated purposes,
looking into wooden boxes,
side-by-side, the coin clinks
with the even-ness of day by day

as we stack them in lots
worn, and worn through,
they recite the tracts of Sisyphus
by heart and by ones or twos
in each backward glance depart.

It was not the rock,
had never been but what was,
what the rock was,

a resistance that had rolled roundish
in some bitterness of great price,
had worn them to the callous bone,
the martyrs rock ground and

pounded into sand
lift by lift the grains sifted
around their feet

a ring of grains, grass grains
built but for a momentary stand
under that aged skin, annealed
hand in hand they stood
in the glazed indifference,

in the ring of the sheaver's clock
picked up a scythe newly whet
and sighed the sigh of dying wheat

scarred and rough
as the mocking moon
with our heals dug in and
did what we did
rocking back and forth


It was a job
we could only throw onto
the scaffold of our bodies
and hope that halfway there,
and hope they might

but to repeat

the sounds we wore,
some in a gesture of gay defense,
others under the great gray tent
of our indifference,

would be driven to the fields
by such ancillary discontents
as we could find

could someday -- half-way from here to there
we would try again -- in wheat or rice

plant our feet,
the millstones in their rows,
watch the tourists
passing overhead

in all that we had thus prepared
for them, in dull gray wear
we weary of their speech

and repeat their speeches
as they come,

and as they go
we ring out sand
from rags

we've twisted in
our callused hands, rung
the gritty warmth from them
by the handsfull passeth over
grain by grain

enternities of sand that
slip, slipping away
into the sleep of glass

and overhead, the tourists
pass this way, to repeat
again, the knell
in its appalling tones

with rags, brown rags
about their feet
they come

by twos this time, by twos
and stand, knell by knell
over the patience of the sand

they kneel and review

One thought on “Dedication on the Occasion of the Next War and Its Memorial, by Red Slider

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