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by Gary Beck

In the winter of an old man’s dreams
as icicle tears
shatter on the floor,
I sit shivering and bare,
hiding from my nurse’s care,
because she has black hair
upon her chin.

Behind the doorway
of an antiseptic room
a scrofulous intern waits
to seal me in an antique tomb.

I will let him,
but I’ll carry pen and paper
and write what I remember.
And when it’s done
the door that’s set within a marble wall
will crack and bare a mound of paper
covered with a trembling scrawl.

You think this is an old fool’s vision?

Perhaps you’re right
Perhaps I should start now....

Sometimes I remember
the warming sun
in a distant, Mediterranean November,
and a ragged urchin peeing
on the beaches of Palermo,
his tiny tool held gently
in his mother’s guiding fingers.

Now I can remember
naked bellies, brown and pulsing
glistening in the dawn
on white, erotic beaches,
until my presence cast a shadow
on a sea of lovers’ sweat,
and they fled the dampened contours
where their bodies stained the sand.

Yes, I can remember....
November was the time of year
to lie upon a sun-scorched beach
and lick the salt-hot stiffness
of a lover’s thighs.

But I have also walked
the palm-lined avenues of evening
in a tiny, Caribbean land
followed by a blind guitarist
whose strumming fingers
summoned girls with hot-eyed glances
who did undulating dances
on the sidewalks of the open air cafes.

I coupled with a dancer
wilder than an Andalusian mare in springtime.
She clawed me in her heat
and writhed upon a pastel sheet.
Later we drank rum and coke,
but mine was drugged
and I awakened on a public beach,
alone... and broke...

The rage that flared within my heart
drained my strength to run away
festered on my will to live another day,
cast me pitiful and empty
on a hostile, driftwood shore
where I feasted on raw oysters
with a toothless, grinning whore.

Yet begging, cursing, I cried for more.
I have looked upon the leering skulls of lepers
steaming in the heat of distant jungles.
I’ve been chilled in pristine polar regions,
the vast expanse so calm and still
that I could almost hear tomorrows.
I have seen the sinful face of my soul,
mirrored in the rainpools of the morning,
while I waited for a taxi in Times Square.

Yet yearning, pleading, I ached for more.

Yes, I have seen Pietas groveling
in the gutters of the evening.
I have seen them swollen-bellied
from the winds of morning.
I have seen them bear an infant prince
and cast him down a sewer.

Deep within the steam pits of the city
far beneath the altar of forgiveness
nibbled on by choirs of hungry rats,

a tiny babe
floats to the pollution of the ocean
into a hermit’s cave with great commotion
where he’s welcomed as a savior
and placed upon a seaweed throne.
Somewhere in the bedroom of the night,
buried in the quilty bed of night,
an infant’s voice is screaming:

“Wake me, or I strangle.”

No one answers in the night.

The visions of youth are dimming
heroes are almost forgotten.
My sullen legs won’t carry me
to legendary cities of decay.
The brutal struggles, raw and clashing,
are fading, flickering neon gleams
that barely light a final plea for life
as I raise a supplicating hand.
My fears are greater than my dreams.

I could say more,
but television travelers would not understand.

So suck contentment like a sponge,
hesitate before the final plunge,
hide behind our drab diversions
and pray, pray the universe is stable.

Yet hidden by the creepers
of the voracious human jungle,
the python twines around his prey,
ingests us all,
then dozes for another day.

Copyright © 2016 by Gary Beck

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