adventures in dysthymia

Monday, May 14, 2012

Banyan, a poem

BANYAN

I.

Me and a guy and another guy
were hanging down at the pier
or in the parking lot, to be exact,
where that big banyan latticed
its trailing roots across the shade.

By mid-morning the heat and the sun
and the wind turning onshore
would send us to its shelter,
and later the rain would come
and it served as our leaky umbrella,

while we watched the tourists
run to their cars and the girls,
the older girls who paid no attention
to three sunburned surf-rats,
turned their faces to the shower.

We gave them the eye, though,
those girls in their summer tans,
or the corner of the eye,
and maybe they appreciated
the admiration or maybe not.

The older guys would have said
things, did say things when they
hung there in the evening,
but we only thought them
and felt cooler for doing so.

II.

The sidewalk had been shoved up,
broken into concrete triangles
and trapezoids and other shapes
that could be described mathematically
by someone else, gray where they

had not been stained by the rain
percolating through the leaves
and sand had crept across,
to be removed now-and-again
by someone from the city crew.

Ten-thousand thong-sandals
would know that abstract-expressionist
collage, a season’s work for tree
and wind and rain to create
from bits and pieces left by man

and a season’s work to make anew.
I had counted the seasons beneath
the banyan, knowing they would add
up to something, someday, a sum
of summers, all in a column.

A column of rising cloud, over
the Gulf, promised thunderstorms.
That, too, was summer and the sum
of all a day was to me, then,
when the lightning painted the sky.

III.

In the night, I have seen the banyan
and none beneath it but the lone
drinker, taking solace in darkness
and muscatel. In the night,
as I detoured on the way home

from my job, I would remember
my addition and wonder whether
I totaled it up all wrong.
The answer was always too high
for it to matter, anyway.

They tore down the old hotel
to expand the parking lot
and put in meters and a guard
and no one hangs out there now
or sits in screened porches

watching what used to be
over gin and tonic and citronella.
The girls are still there, though,
and their bikinis smaller than when
I was a kid, skating

the bumpy sidewalk to the banyan.
That’s illegal now, too,
but the surf still blows out by late
morning and it still rains
almost every summer afternoon.

Stephen Brooke ©2012

This is VERY MUCH early draft and may change quite a lot. Longer poems are more likely to do that, anyway, as there is more to them, more ideas that can be finessed, changed, rewritten, whereas a short piece is often one thought, complete in itself.

That opening line was suggested by my high-school English teacher, Mr Kearney, and I’ve been holding onto it for forty-some years now. He’d heard someone use it and always said that he wanted to put it into a story. For all I know, maybe he did but I’m stealing it anyway.

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