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J Clayton L Jones

THE SUNDOWNERS

for Benji Griffith

 

I

 

Again, it makes you think of it:

at evening the stutters and shakes,

            the cicadas shrilling drone through me

and I am taken back to the place where my dead Indian’s mother once lived.

             Raised not by the sun,

                                                but the evening and this village purge me.

                                               

How far to Folsom really is it?  I am asking. The cicadas shrilling drone developing as my nervousness

coming home.            Am I only dreaming?            is when and what I thought

of: white lights.

 

I hope and I am only witnessing a phenomenon? —my bags always packed by sundown,

packing them      this morning: a tribute for each sunrise             a goddamned ritual            As

good as new, I say to myself                        as good as the latches on my Samsonite            that I

am putting the clothes in             next to the east-window, entirely unafraid

 

and there are no cicadas,            only birds.

 

 

II

 

And I am the one who waits on them because I know they are coming,

Their hair as blue as mornings they are not afraid of,

the songs they pray:

 

                        The cicadas are roaring while I cry blood.

                        Where is my mommy, oh Lord?

                        Did you put her in the closet like Daddy done?

                        Lead me not to temptation.

 

And I am the one who knows all of them by name,

for I have a list of them:

Razors and beads adjourn in their saddles

as spring in Alaska and I know that I swore

I would list them but their faces do not have names,

                                                  not the kind you recite at morning,

 

the horse-whisperer gathering herbs and wind.

 

            Reading the Scriptures till noon,

            by two my gear shall be by the door.

            You can sense the longing in these half-steps that I make,

            can’t you?             These second hands.           

            By sundown.  It is I who has a different face.

                                                 

 

III

 

You can hear their soul-breathing like a cicada crying in the rain.

Bring me my newspaper.            My coffee.    And slippers.  

I promise you that’s what they say.

And again, it is not the words they are hearing, them saying

            only they believe the train to Folsom is coming,

            and coming at last when the lights and the sparrows

            are dying, and are dying for the rest that will not come.

Are not these sparrows ravens?

 

 

IV

 

There. In the window light.  I am always seeing through them.

At sun of day.            A smiling birch tree we sat and laughed under.

When I was five.                        Now, it is all gone.     So are my roots.

 

 

V

 

My world in a suitcase of dust and nothing in it again this morn.

These roll-topped movements, like when I was a newspaperman.

Bring me my coffee.                   My appointments.            My Scriptures.

You’ll see me at close of day, the cicadas crawling counter-pointed

against the train crying            tears and gushes of ink-blood,

my not remembering how to spell salvation for so many sundowns.

 

VI

 

Homespun like rituals, I can see them coming.

When they get here, the dances and bands will start again.

 

Kazoos.

 

All of these are metaphors for breathing:

 

The humidity is much easier to deal with

in say, Arizona, I hear tell.

 

Over the cicadas you can

barely hear me whimpering

having in Folsom and born here too.

 

 

VII

 

When I awake from these evenings,

all becomes crystal.

A faceless face, and I am blind.           

My eyes a soul-cavern.

Toss me in the boxcar, porter.

When this train gets to Zion,

I’ll remember what the sunset looks like.

 

 

VIII

 

Lion horses

            more than in-between.                                                           

                                    More in-between than us.

 

                                                How misty times                                                      the stroke

                                                                                                                              upon my

brow.

 

                                                U            you danced upon

 

                                                                        the sundown.

 

 

 

 

            When it’s gone\

 

                        far between

 

                                                                                                            so many

                                                                                                            sundowns.

 



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