Long before he was born
there once was a child
whose tightly clenched fist
was not on his wrist
but deep in his chest
right where he had carefully
hidden it before he started on
the long pilgrimage from
his mother’s bed of pain
in a Halifax birthing room
to a ceremonial wooden box
under a granite headstone in
a lonely northern Ontario town

And all along the journey
as he hid that clenched thing
in its cage of bone and blood
he knew it was his strength
he knew it was his own amicus
and he never cried alone
for early had he found his other friend
in the luscious amber nectars that eagerly
he flooded down his burning throat
into his aching fiery chest
where it touched his fist
and soothed it and lulled it to sleep
and opened it so that dreams could
enter its unclenched palm.

And the luscious amber nectars comforted him
and gave him dreams of a family with
a wife and a son and a daughter
and they were all smiling and dancing
and laughing and singing
and the luscious amber liquid
loosened, tendered the clenched fist
for ever shorter instances as
all the while they were thrusting
and feeding a deep rotting root down
into another darker place
where they fed another tighter fist
that was grasping his dark flesh
like a gnarled malignant twin

Outside, his pale lovely skin
won him the adoration of a sweet innocent
eager wife who served him unreservedly
with trust and hope in his future
and soon she gave birth to his son
for whom he had great hopes
and he almost forgot the festering fists
until the war came and made wonders
of such fists and so he went to war
to feed more amber nectar to the fists
and he came back, bitter,
and his wife squeezed out a daughter
and the secret fists were strong

And these fists at night would reach out
into his wife and children and
tighten their grip around the bladders
inside the wife and the son and the daughter
and wring them out until they cried
bitter yellow tears into their pillows
and yellow sweat seeped out of their pores
and yellow urine seeped out into the bedclothes
and yellow bile leaked out of their anuses
until first the wife died of yellow disease
and partially freed him and
the children moved away
but they were still bleeding yellow bile
that seeped from their poor stressed
bladders that he continued to squeeze
over the miles, so grasping were his old fists
but he too was sweating black bile from
the fist on the rotting root that grasped his liver
until he dissolved, dripped into the hole
in the ground slid into the earth

And the son and daughter came together
and they forgave him
and buried his fists in a wooden box
with the rest of him
for the thing that had taken root
in his liver had drowned him
in his own yellow tears
and sister and brother
lived good lives
with little thought of fists
and gradually
bathed in clear water
and they were all smiling and dancing
and laughing and singing
and loved their own children
and kept reaching out
as if they were compelled
to hang on to each other
to grasp each other’s hearts


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About riverwriter

Poet, playwright, duplicate bridge player, website designer, cottager, husband, father, grandfather, former athlete, carpenter, computer helper for my friends, theatre designer, backstage polymath, retired teacher of highschool English, drama, art, a baritone singer in a barbershop quartet, who knows what else? wordcurrents is on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/wordcurrents/ Doug also has a Facebook page, "Incognitio", related to his novels.
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4 Responses to once

  1. riverwriter says:

    If you have looked at this poem more than once in the days following its publication, you will notice some changes — I am tinkering with it. Some of the changes are small but substantial; others concern subtleties. But that is the nature of this blog: wordcurrents.

  2. Stephanie says:

    This one is very moving, vivid and beautiful. I’m really glad you wrote it. Has Penny seen it? You should point it out to her.

  3. Lissa says:

    This poem made me cry. It is so moving, the rawness of the images, the sadness, the longing…reaching out. I’m speechless!

  4. riverwriter says:

    It certainly makes a difference what we bring to a poem when we read it.

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