Fresh Hay

From Charles "Bonesy" Jones Private Collection

The flesh filled with the black sludge of time,
difficulty moving, out of breath quickly,
trouble sleeping, trouble staying awake.

The failure of stamina.
I imagine a Gulliver figure aging
in a Lilliputian world,
the diminutive devils of sickness, old age, death
throwing ropes over his form,
bending the spine closer to earth,
dragging down the skin over the bones,
slowing the stride to a sad shuffle.

Mostly, it is a persistent tiredness,
a dull exhaustion with the world.

I cast a cold eye on the happiness and joy of others.
This public laughter.
A family running around the park with children.
A father lifting his little girl into the air.
A mother riding on a grocery cart through a parking lot,
her children happily running along beside.
Lovers giggling face-to-face over private jokes.

Enthusiasm in older people is a particular sin.
Men singing the trivial praises of a beer or a new band or a recent film.
Even worse: the old trying to blend in amongst the young.
The masque of overabundance,
the false enthusiasm, the forced smiles,
the affect of being free of cares,
hiding like reptiles amongst a herd of sheep.
Showing their shaking hand
as they glance surreptitiously at the clock,
their faces falling in unguarded moments,
the grey slack skin yawning around the bloodshot eyes,
revealing the vacant countenance
of the skull waiting underneath it all.

These petty crimes of humanity...
aren't they all always petty in this regard?
I am as guilty as anyone.

However, tending to the fire
of this awareness seems everything.
I figure the old man feeding the broken down nag
in the barn for all of his life,
awaiting the return of the hero.
Still better, I say to myself,
as I shovel fresh hay into the coffin of the stall,
than being lost in there with all the others.
In There.
Standing outside in the gloom of the brain's evenings,
outside the luminous frame of the window,
careful to stay unseen in the shadows,
looking in upon the merry pageant
of other's desperate happiness,
thinking always how fortunate I am
to have made such wise choices in my life,
lesser traveled paths
that have led me to this strange watch
I hold outside of the drama,
that warm life, laughter and love
in there.

I mock myself laughter,
move deliberately into the light
so as to spy my ludicrous shadow
and descant upon mine own deformity.

I return to the ruined nag in the stall,
this ghost of a horse,
this trembling bag of bones
curled into the corner.

I whisper its name,
trying to divine if there is still life in the creature.
One sad eye opens.
The weathered head lifts slightly.
I say the name again,
rare warmth returning to my voice: