Discover more from Unleash Lit
"Wondrous" and other poems
by Patrick Reardon
Wondrous GirlJane went before the face of the lion. Before the beast, she prepared a meal. In the sight of the preying eyes, she said: “My name is Wondrous.” She paid court to the indolent and slovenly prophet. She tracked the rise and fall of many. Her voice carried a quarter of a mile. She took residence in the imagination of many hearts. GirlJane engaged in the practice of priestly service. She was wine and honey. Milk and raisin cakes. She swam in living water. Her raiment was as pleasing as saffron, as cinnamon, as aloes and balm. Her face glowed as if with nard, as a bed of spices, as a cloud of frankincense. In stature, she was a tree of life with scaly bark and scaly leaves on small branches, evergreen. None her equal except the twin. A tree of heaven along city streets, a paradise tree of stout gray twigs, disfigured over time, in Brooklyn, in Mississippi, in Detroit, tenacious, ruthless in rich poverty. GirlJane was bread. She was light. She was the entry door. She was the road back to before time. In her mother’s womb, she leapt to hear the faint scarred music: “Roll, Jordan!”
Tumults War, tumults. GirlJane in dark, in spotlight, voice ascending. Sinners, repenters. Free, GirlJane, above the sewer tides, above the runaway cave, in the twinless cloud, in her own kingdom hall, her own host of nations. It is finished, it is written. Joined, GirlJane, by sixty thousand stadium voices — glorify. I am inside the bell. Sufferings turned to salt.
Four friends Red River got late to the funeral, wearing his uniform, bearing his stoic pall, itched by a the incense hanging over the main aisle and the casket, looking tiny down at the far end of the rug, at the edge of the marble steps where, once, Father Brother fell, unsteady on repaired knees, to bruised communion and the sacred wafers spread here and yon, the poor guy sprawled with a broken collar-bone, a pratfall priesthood, drawing laughs like hosannas, now, healed, standing at the altar intoning thinly the start of the Gloria while the plain blonde rough-cut hardware-store wood casket haloed a shout over the corpse of Johnny Alderman, as he wanted. God bless the child. Johnny shone too over those many years, centerfielding, musicking his bar guitar, wrestling long rattle pipes at the foot of the ladder between heaven and earth, between the soil and the heavens. He shattered his golden calf on the asphalt outside Brady’s, fetal-curled and said to me, “Look away.” Brother had only sisters, even though he had three brothers, the sisters sharing blood from the veins of one into and out of the veins of another and on so, the brothers circling like plastic planets around a museum globe — set in the living room like a shopping mall altar at the holidays for Jacob’s unwilling sacrifice with no SWAT-team angel in the wings — each continent, each mountain range, river valley and blue-cheek ocean a reprimand, and Brother, a cartographer when off-duty from the rites and murmurs, working his lines and pencils to fashion a Mercator Projection, as if origami could disappear the fires of the Earth’s core, everlasting fires. Red River found refuge behind the walls his wife erected, a parapetted oasis to keep at bay all else. He never left, even when he left. And, after everyone was gone, I janitored the space.
Above water Jacoba is a muscular sparrow, brown, gray, sturdy, fit, appealing if you take the time to look and don’t look too hard — the eyes talk — a survivor, heir to rich distant dead parents, to this and that grateful dead client, keeps her head above water, finds her way. In business, she is an equal to the contract sharkers, well-versed in their business, cunning, sly — earns her money and GirlJane’s. Made the two of them their first money in Corpus Christi, after driving 164 miles to hear the Chocolate Kisses in Clemmie’s Whiskey Bar & Saloon — grabbed GirlJane, still Alice O’Toole, with strong fingers around the bare right bicep, and pulled her across the street to Eudaimonia Street Ice House for an a cappella gospel triumph. She always had the pipes, only needed faith, hope and love. Jacoba supplied. The other two Chocolate Kisses never knew what hit them. She is never not available to GirlJane.
Sheets She was just a little thing. Jacoba’s toy, they made fun — you made fun as if a dirt- face stagehand was all I was worth. I’ll tell you my worth: That daughter of the Governor, that tall body, that towering energy, soft skin touch, adoration eyes — that is my worth. You toyed, GirlJane, with my toy between the sheets when it suited whim. For that, she was worth. Not after the tall one reached down to you for that first kiss. Yes, I saw it from the open door. It was open for me to see, but you two opened to each other for all you were worth, and I was flooded with an ocean-worth of bile. She had no eyes for me.
Patrick T. Reardon is the author of fourteen books, including the poetry collections Requiem for David (Silver Birch), Darkness on the Face of the Deep (Kelsay), The Lost Tribes (Grey Book), Let the Baby Sleep (In Case of Emergency) and Salt of the Earth: Doubts and Faith (Kelsay). His memoir in prose poems Puddin’: The Autobiography of a Baby was published by Third World Press with an introduction by Haki Madhubuti. For 32 years, Reardon was a Chicago Tribune reporter. His history book The Loop: The “L” Tracks That Shaped and Saved Chicago was published by Southern Illinois University Press. Patrick has agreed to take part in an Ask the Author interview in December. Check back to hear about his journey.