What Little Hobbies for the Dead, the Card Players and the Eclipse

Sean Thomas Dougherty

Under the oak tree, the shadows of church going women hallalujahing, the Bingo players ecstatic shouts, all from the shades. The lungs begrudge me a smoke or two for letting them still breathe. I have nothing more to give away, except this evening’s light as luminous as the last supper, our bones they speak in orchestrations as we were, I bend to shoot & the small crackling like the branches of a camp fire to rise like an ember in the flame. To hold the darkness of the branches in the backyard. Or a cold beer. I drink nothing less than the blues. I have no other habits left. Though sometimes at Wegman’s bakery I stand there sweating, inhaling the breath of just baked bread. The only citizenship I claim is the mountain & the great lake. I have never saluted a flag or said a pledge, except perhaps The Leaves of Grass, or to Thoreau’s diction to always resist. What do we care if all that is left is ruins, it is where we have always lived. Once though when I was small, & my mother took me to the coast of Maine, & I saw the wild sea roses rim the road & cliffs like a thorned crown. Or in the marketplace in Cleveland, the old Hungarian woman who handed me a great length of sweet sausage wrapped so quick yet carefully in white paper & then the day’s newspaper tapped together with masking tape. Is that our true flag? The untamed & the stained? Who are our people those who emerge with poor unturned faces from doorways & windows, then run shouting despite the evidence each day I am waiting for a sign, a spark, I test the direction the wind might turn, & what will come with it? A Puerto Rican girl with barbed wire tattoos & a Social Distortion shirt, her plaid skirt hitched blatantly above her knee, a Pakistani boy dribbling a soccer ball, not looking up for bombs, a bald white man laughing, chasing his wind-blown fedora? All of us tumbling down the Avenues & roads looking for something, even the stray black dog, who trots around the corner, sniffs the air. His long & lopping expectant tongue. What does he taste? What does he imagine he will taste? & like birds who cursive across the sky, who are we if not something written with the body’s ink across the page of the workday’s dwindling hours, some testament to survival? Step by step, shift by shift, we pass even the saints. We become something closer to our dead. I ask for no wager except that others who come after to suffer a little less. In this life is another & another, & another that is this human nest. This daguerreotype divine or damaged — for what is damaged is closer to divine. I look up just in time to see the wafer of moon dissolve into the mouth of the dark.

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