Christopher T. George
O’Malley wakes as ever at 3 am without an alarm,
does his ablutions, mutters prayers for the dead,
the sick. He’ll do the same later. It never hurts
to give God an extra nudge. In the cecropia tree,
a quetzal calls keow-kowee-keow-k’loo-keow-keloo.
He dunks a teabag in his Sligo Rovers mug, nibbles
a cracker, adds more notes to his reminiscences
about his father. Remembers Da’s neck muscles;
how his splenius cervicis and nuchal ligament
supported Da’s great head as he fought Alzheimer’s
like a stallion struggling in green Atlantic breakers.
Late afternoon rain draws a musty smell
from the earth after another hot day;
a backhoe moves earth, uproots trees;
a mulcher whines; a hardhat feeds
limbs into the whirling blades.
They’re clearing land for more
graves at Arlington Cemetery, to add
to the quarter million that wave
already with stars and stripes
on the manicured lawns sloping
down to the muddy Potomac.
Tame the Ghosts
Erik has a new rockabilly CD out but the title track “Tame the Ghosts”
is not the one I wrote about past loves, Marjorie, Andrea, and Pat.
It’s a more serious song by the Frenchman born of a Swedish lady teacher
and a Tunisian who died of heart disease and lies in a quiet French village:
camellia blossoms in a village graveyard; chime of a church clock.
Ghosts haunt us—as I write these words, as I lift my coffee to drink,
past lives of friends and family touch us momentarily in the celestial arc
of our travels. I struggle to describe the ghosts that shadow me always.
Red Roses and Orange Lilies
Busy midweek, I drive Mom for a Saturday morning grocery shop,
she worries that the sign says “Speed hump” instead of “bump.”
I say is it “catsup” or “ketchup”? She says “It’s a different recipe.”
I say, in medicine, a cream is waterbased and creme oil-based,
still she worries that the light is taking too long to change, worries
where she is, needs to know, forgetful. My mother at eighty-four.
The Monkey on the Terra Cotta Patio
scrambles for peanuts thrown by the old poet,
sits on its purple haunches, gnawing a nut;
pieces of husk raining onto the red tiles.
The poet rests amused in the sun, a blanket
on his knees, an intricately carved cane by
his side, if he cares to walk, but he does not.
Scents of honeysuckle and gardenia play
in his nostrils. Snow-white peonies
avalanche the red-tiled walk;
the sun glints in water spewing from
a bronze fountain and on a cherub’s cheek.
Beautiful enough to write about, if he still
wrote, if anyone remembers his verse. Once
he was a performing monkey too, dancing
to an organ grinder’s calliope, wrote novels
that entertained an audience, made a mark
on the New York Times best sellers list.
The honeysuckle’s interwoven with poison ivy;
the hospital staff don’t seem to care.
The monkey scratches itself, looks sideways
with expectant eyes at its old companion, whose
still hand rests in the crumpled bag of peanuts.
Rain drips on windowboxes of scarlet geraniums.
I am seated as usual at my table in the café.
I gaze out of the window, hoping you’ll show up
—but I know you never will. You send money
that helps me to live, to be the writer and poet
I’ve always dreamed. But I don’t know you.
Do I disgust you? Is that why you leave me
abandoned here, a free spirit but captive
like the goldfish in the corner going oh oh oh.
So I sit at my table, write another ode to you.
To the person I think you are but whom I may
never know. Rain glistens on a scarlet petal.
The Ghosts of Cambodia
The old farmer takes us to a temple splashed
with magenta bougainvillea; a carving shows
a royal horse trampling a king’s unfaithful
wife to death. Below, a saronged woman
offers rice and plum wine to the dead.
A ruined school is now a shrine stacked
with skulls rescued from the fields;
offerings of fruit and cups of water sit
in the door. He says, “Where the skulls lay
in the fields, they became soft and smelly.
“The water buffalo began to eat them.
If we hadn’t gone and collected them,
the buffalo might have eaten them all.
“Nightly, the spirits of the dead startle
us as they call out, ‘Bring us water,
it’s so hot and crowded in here!’
Still their spirits cry out, taunt us.”
© Christopher T. George
Loch Raven Review Fall 2005 Vol. I, No. 1
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