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Sunday, February 15, 2015


by Patricia Brooks

Image source: Family Equality Council

You died too soon, precious James.
We need your eloquent voice
right down here, now more than ever.
Some never heard it; others seem to have
forced their brains to forget.
Most are still dazzled by
those old lures of fortune-and-fame.
Some of us – sorry – have been so intent on
exercising our vocal cords in the vain hope
of singing like yours, that I guess we just missed
some of the subtler beats
on their ominous drums.

Into that vacuum,
the manufacturing skills of The Man
have grown craftier.  Could you even have
nightmared this parade of our frivolous lives,
this legion of beautified faces
by which he is masking his face.
While The Chosen can’t seem to get over
the sound of their magnified voices, crooning to us
everything we still want to hear, showing to us,
in their glossy white pages, everyone we ever wanted
in our beds.

You saw so clearly The Man,
working maniacally in his sealed laboratory,
the gleam of destruction in those eyes
we mistook for human, concocting
ever-more-enticing concoctions --
a dash of weakness here,
a taste of envy there,
a big dollop of greed on the top.
And I must report, it is working!
The cells of the basically decent are breaking down
into confusion.  The skins of the only-observing
are showing seared edges.  Next it will be
those who stand on the rung just below them,
promised a big bite of American Pie for their
loyalty, now just going up like the rest of us
in that smoke you so keenly detected
so long ago.

Then there are those – you would weep for them –
locked in locked closets,
once fooled into doing our dirty work for us,
Now -- 80 each day! every day!
are putting their guns into their mouths,
just hoping to be shot
into a better world.

That sure fire you proclaimed
from the top of your mountain
is growing ever-hotter, is faster and faster
turning our lives to vainglorious dust.
While those once well-meaning but weak
have been oh-so-cleverly enticed to shout out
Yes!  Yes!  Bomb those bastards for bombing us!
Torture those torturers!
as lustily as any Roman spurred on his gladiator
blinded by pride, to sink his sword into a lion
just being a lion.

Your eyes would never believe,
James the Ascetic, just how high is
this mountain of goodies The Man, posing as baker,
keeps turning out on our well-polished tables
for our runaway gluttony.
Just the shine of his toys
would blind you in minutes.
And our sons and our daughters,
believe they can talk to each other
in only one hundred and forty lowercap letters.
And Jimmy, they actually imagine
they are saying something so tiny
is profound.  Those of us older
pretend that our hearts are still beating,
while the lifeblood of our bodies is leaking,
almost unnoticed, away.  Until soon
we’ll be only so many dried leaves
under his feet.

So we need you, still need you,
kind Mr. Baldwin.  That teacher
who instructed us so softly,
so mightily.  Even the best of our voices
can’t rise to the height of your mountain.
So please, sir, if you cannot come back,
could you possibly find just some castoff connector
from the home of one of the fallen, to give us
just one more transfusion
of your healing fire?

So sing to us, sing to us,
just one more time.  We promise to
study your lyrics more clearly, your words with more
reverence if you’ll only come back to us
just one more time
before it’s too late.

Patricia Brooks is the author of two commercially published novels and is now working 24/7 to finish the epic historical novel Eagle and Child, eleven years in the birthing.  A key chapter of the novel will be published in the Spring issue of the Mandala Journal, the literary publication of the Afro-American Studies program at the University of Georgia.  She has published short fiction and poetry in a variety of journals, most recently Whirlwind, Blast Furnace, The Voices Project, Narrative Northeast, and The Great American Literary Magazine, now posted on-line.