g r a v e l
A L I T E R A R Y J O U R N A L
Photograph by V.A. Smith
Surmising the Situation
A mountain of bedclothes,
long curtains drawn anonymously,
the detritus of a playful night.
Room service tray
like playful set piece,
reflecting the quarter moon,
catching rays as if
calling to all sorts of appetite.
your abandoned clothes
suggesting poses to the mind’s eye,
the inner desires revealed,
the insatiable nymph,
or the agonizing realization
you might be here against your will.
Depending on inner judgments
or social classifications
or what is truly found within;
I am not the one you’d imagined
when imagining was done.
(You are the ultimate arbiter,
Lady Justice wielding her blind sword,
rent through, I am the one
struck by your sharp dangers,
bending beside you, unable
to resist the challenge
of surviving this madness,
gazing into your closed eyes,
and knowing you feel the same
even as you lie here, quietly breathing.)
Oh to be sequestered in a practice room with you,
soundproofed against the world’s horrible random noises.
The space cries out for a sweet duet.
Oh for that perfect chance to play notes that express
the passions inherent to my native land,
riffs that cannot be ignored, where each staccato utterance
forces a body to move, willing slave to the rhythm.
Such music thrills me, fills me within and without,
exciting and delighting me.
Yet all I manage this dull afternoon
is a stultified assemblage of amateur sounds,
a bric-a-brac of awkwardness that conveys
nothing of what burns inside.
This stiff, metrical mess seems unpracticed, crude.
I play on, sliding down a steep declension
toward the edge of crestfallen.
No arpeggio flourish impresses and nothing distinguishes
my allegro hopes and dreams.
No coda rescues me today, yet you continue to smile,
beautiful and unperturbed, a petite fortress of patience
and aural fortitude brought to bear.
For this and more, I urge my heart
to beat pianissimo, lest its jungle
timpani of adoration scare you away.
Like millions of others I barely walk erect,
yet you encourage me to work opposable thumbs
in vague expectation that one day
this stiff hodgepodge of embarrassing notes
will evolve into the fine art of lovely music.
After the after-death party,
the gray sky folded itself into a darker shadow.
Raindrops caught reflections of nearby neon,
illuminating the plate glass window
with urban luminescence.
Strangers met up strangely
in the small luncheonette's sequestered back room,
One oddly long table full of those come in unity to celebrate a life.
"It's what she would have wanted,"
the petite Asian hairstylist declared.
No one disputed the claim.
Most were bathed in quiet reflection,
heads bowed in thought before voicing measured recitations,
pleasant memories and earnest testimonials
about volunteer service and cheery interactions,
contagious laughter and an effusive positive attitude.
Kindness silenced speculation about cause of death,
as the family’s explanation seemed insufficient.
People were gently speaking in turn until the one man.
None of the others seemed to know him.
He stood in place and changed everything.
He served up tasty details
of an on-again, off-again relationship.
And ultimately of the conquest,
the sex and fulfillment,
the moans and screams of a voice now muted forever.
People exchanged shocked looks,
eyebrows tilted at windmills of impropriety.
This was his way of reacting to loss.
And so many years later, acquaintances who attended
are more likely to remember
this man's desperate verbal exhibition
than the name of the woman whose life and death
served as reason for that awkward gathering.
It is too easy, too simple to go ascribe blame,
but the fact is revealed in that we are weak,
chemically imbalanced mortal players,
reciting homilies to prior learning,
aches and hiding places and animal yearnings,
memories and more directed movements,
marking time like mirrors of the celestial entities
orbiting our long night’s imaginations.
You blend in the foundation,
I shave the familiar face that greets me.
We stare into the vacant realm together,
representing our respective genders,
friends, lives, and belongings, the things
that comprise our so-called existence.
The shiny things reflect the light
and present us as we want to be seen.
The dance begins, another soul saved,
a charade of recovery and preaching to the choir.
Hours and holidays slip by like flowing water
and time and tide still rant impatiently.
Listen and you’ll hear the faint susurrus,
the rasp of our folly, the alms of our aims.
It echoes in the snowstorm, winding through branches,
confiding in nature with what secrets remain.
Gary Glauber is a poet, fiction writer, and teacher. His works have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. Recent poems are published or forthcoming in Agave Magazine, Bay Laurel, Stone Voices, Dead Flowers, Fjords Review, Flutter Poetry Journal, Found Poetry Review, Thirteen Myna Birds; Extract(s); Foliate Oak Literary Magazine, Northwind Magazine; Kindred Magazine, Tendril Literary Magazine, Chupa Chabra House; Eunoia Review; and Black Cat Lit.