COLUMN: TWO POEMS

Published March 8, 2020

Two unpublished poems from the writer…

Arrhythmia
The cardiologist reduced
the medication after the stress test
showed that my heart had restored its default
setting to that former
rhythm which had been its regular beat
before the stent

was needed, an anti-virus
programme to stop arterial malware.
Quietly, the blood flows unimpeded
at a constant pressure,
permitting me to enjoy the boredom
of normalcy.

It’s like sitting in a golf cart
after scoring an unexpected birdie
pretending it was a regular deal,
nothing special, happens
every day on this over-watered green.
It’s a cool world,

the young high-five one another
playing video games on tablets while
sipping double-espressos in Starbucks.
On the wide TV screen
there’s breaking news about a hurricane
making landfall,

a wildly gyrating motion
of the storm’s green mass with its pumping
red centre spinning like a circular saw.
It’s no more distracting
than yesterday’s discarded paper with
its bold headline

that the planet’s lungs were on fire.
An Amazon Prime truck makes deliveries
when I go for my daily neighbourhood walk,
the FitBit on my wrist
to alert me should the heartbeat again go
out of control.


The Witnesses
What struck me first about the four women
alighting from the two just parked SUVs
was their virtuous air,

as if they’d come to perform a pious
ritual for the community’s good,
going from house to house

to knock on doors and to hand out leaflets
and make a speech to the cautiously curious
face in an open door’s

shadow, or receiving no answer, to leave
their glossy literature in the mail box.
Canvassers probably

for a local politician, or out
to promote some new cosmetic, I thought,
but why that pious look?

One came up to me with an extended
hand where sunlight shone back from a glossy
leaflet though reflected

more sharply in my mind was her elegant
appearance, the flowery cotton blouse
and the striped full-length skirt,

the blond coiffure and the deliberate make-up
that masks late middle-age with a youthful glow.
I thanked her and walked on.

Soon the two SUVs drove past, then stopped
some blocks down the street where the four women
repeated their routine.

I glanced at the leaflet. Just then a Gulf
fritillary floated past my eyes to a
lantana bush, its bright

orange wings gliding down to the yellow
flowers growing on the roadside, but I
returned to the leaflet,

and though a mourning-dove’s high-pitched call
to its mate filled the air with its repeated
cry, I scarcely heard it,

so incredibly loud were the words in my ears
calling me to the Truth and to God’s Kingdom.
I became distracted

by something trembling on the road and stopped.
A mocking bird had been hit by a car
and had crashed to the ground;

it struggled to open its wings, only
for its body to give a sudden jerk
so that it turned over

from its back to its stomach, and rolling
repeatedly and desperately, it died
on an oily patch where

a month ago a garter snake had been crushed,
though engraved on the road what remained of it
looked like a question mark.

My eyes were lured back to the leaflet by
a picture of a beautiful couple who
had seen the true vision

and would live forever in paradise
for a heavenly resurrection rewarded
Jehovah’s Witnesses.


The poet is a columnist, novelist, literary critic and Professor emeritus at the University of Texas. His works include the novel The Murder of Aziz Khan and a collection of short fictions, Veronica and the Góngora Passion

Published in Dawn, Books & Authors, March 8th, 2020

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