Mennonite Poetry Home | Larry Nightingale



The old pump organ player

At his pedals, still
these swelling bellows and the bell
(though no longer the ruddy freckled brow,
the youngblood heart not pounding hard)
yet reverberating around above us still
in rasp shallow breath whispering
his old ox moan and ghost choir blues,

down through this world's
worn creaking winding stair
in his dusty old brown shoes
in our night sky's stoops and stairwells
us in deepest blue violet gowned,
down to love's ruined yard and barn
and grey-white low chapel underground,
built of earth and stone
and elongate human bone horizontal
is heard there at his rough portal

'I wanted you,
wanted you long
through all my lifetime,
if but for an earthly night,
for the sweat and blood,
the sour and sweet of your body's sermon,
my salty hymns, till the low last pumping
minor key slow note decay
of every rattling last trill, stutter and delay
of a fine old battered organ...'

heart left now to the timeless dry hollowing,
(a beat like hooves of some unspent
un-pent unpleasant animal
come drumming following)
with a soul's bestial groan...

Too quiet there under river and hill
was drowned (torn, twisted,
his leafy clothes, coarse hair, and skin
tied across that great and muddy judgment
throne) 'oh, I went down, went in,
went under, oh my soul',
there at love's muddy feet,
by that riverside, between the mercy seat
and the cloud of thunder, gone down
for something never found

never full pulled out the stops,
never knocked spittle and snot
from out the shrill
high-silent hiss and whistle
of those that crushed his balls
like a beast of burden's,
all what groaned and creaked
and still knocks numb now without sound
around the sorry motherfuckers
and their murderous town
(there the sons of the hypocrite
and the blind deceived and watery-eyed,
the proud-chested, small-peckered,
and our thick-necked soloist
with all that mute gang of baritones
at the wrinkled tit of the patriarch,
like his corseted buttoned up bride)

all along this slippery encampment,
us all now by time's cold waters
wrapped and crowned,
skulls and larynx heavy as river-stones
laid out under the great escarpment,
yet out from our rough flesh and bones
our penitentiary of silent centuries
and ghostly love gone wrong
we come to our great home, long streaming
to ride and ride and ride and ring and ring
this last long slow echoing

full hundred crisscross high wind
griefs and sorrows roaring screaming,
like a choir of failing furies, to the ghost beat
of a mortally wounded animal,
through these old ply-wood walls
to take this solitary loft
frail furious love's
last building last spire last bell last bellows
and an old caved-in brown-husk heart
and mountain down.

© Larry Nightingale




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