In the village of my child all my fathers
were Captains and Conductors, men and their workings
were forever coming home and leaving.
In my village, there were long stretches of empty beach,
great white seagulls always out of reach
undertows that carried sand castles out to sea
My Bogart Daddy became a blind conductor
with a wooden heart that dangled in the window of a caboose.
He could whistle like a train leaving, or the echo
of a foghorn calling me across a cold, hard sea.
Where ever life’s journey carried me
there was always one street I looked for,
each house complemented a neighbors, from each
a soft glow in the mist gave the aura of home.
One street I came to know wherever I went,
where every door passed brought me closer
to far away from where I’d ever been.
I was forever slipping ashore, sliding back out to sea,
each time I’d meet this man along the way
I knew from some forgotten place in time,
I’d tell him that I was too old to settle down, when I stayed
in one place too long the feet didn’t listen anymore,
the mind did all the walking and my hands turned to old stone.
He takes my hand, and I’d feel the rough hand of passing years,
like a blind beggar searching my pockets of fear for change.
With the years drifting like the child sifting the sands
beneath the monkey bars for change, time pretends
forgetfulness and carries with it the feeling
of being loved without ever having done my time.
Why is it so difficult to bring to an end
the well of it when dry? Something in the male of this
that suffers the new start, the beginning of the end.
Having hunted in all the unfilled spaces of a lifetime
I closed in on my prey. I could hear myself, gull scream
in a voice the sound of waves retreating into sea.
What might I have been to have recognized my Captain,
my Conductor! To have passed over and settled tenderly
on the familiar. Old rags and brittle bone
had been where I had been and covered his tracks well.
My father let his bones die. He let his legs ground to sand.
I had been denied the final moments of the hunt.
What I had been looking for was the music man
who sits in the first chair made of sand and driftwood
alive to the pause, listening to his flesh grow old cell by cell
someone who listens for his name to play off the distant clouds
and drift over the sea towards home. What I inherited
was a gathering of shells and stones along the shore,
and a yearning for the undertow, and in the eyes of a boy
the waving good-bye from the rear of a caboose.
The bus parks on the side of the road
The driver opens his thermos, pours himself a cup of coffee,
stares into the rear view mirror. I had come this far.
My children and their children it seemed would miss the bus.
This being the final remains, the echo of a train leaving,
suited me. It all went something like this:
he made a simple exit through the rear door
and let the driver finish his coffee in peace.
By John Thomas Dodds