Alone sat the little boy, wondering Under the peach tree If anyone else ever thought about it. They couldn't, he thought, For if everyone else felt it, they too, Would be alone under the trees, Speechless at the dinner table And waking up hoping never To go back to bed. Maybe they know something That I don't, He thought. Maybe I'm the only one Who reflects out of thin air On such a sadness, he thought, A sadness unprovoked by the world around him But explained by the clubbed spirits Who lived among him as family.
And when he wandered around In his house of empty space, Watching his father And sister And brother, All larger, All more certain, Moving with more intention And staring with less bewilderment, He wondered what answer, What ignorance, What solution Keeps them from perpetual confusion And sorrow?
I must not be allowed to speak about it, he thought, For it was clear to the little boy That there must be deliberation In their not speaking about it every day. It must have been clear that their lives Revolved around it In some way, But unlike the little boy, They did not live from within it. “Dinner on the table” Was a disturbing phrase, A disturbing idea To the little boy.
Mommy putting in an hour each night, And when spoken to, Even about it, She would say, “I can't talk right now, “I have to get dinner on the table.” When daddy felt angry, Unappreciated, he would remind us all That he works so hard To get “dinner on the table.” But how could that be the most Important thing, When we have to live with it? And why even have dinner together, At the table, Thought the little boy, If I cannot talk about it?
In the Cemetery
This cemetery is cupped in mountains and haze. I only come here on gray days When the air looks infused with a plume of chalk dust. This is a chess board without kings. No kings lived or died in this town And it seems there were no poets either, Because nobody has anything clever written on their stones. Millions of cigarette butts contained here. It's a perfect place for them. Cigarettes start out long and smooth and fresh And with every breath they burn back a little more Until they're down to the brown, wrinkled, tiny filter. They burn out just like us.
Those whose graves are blanketed in flowers And those whose graves are broken. Every life and death crumble differently-- Every person a different mask. There are people in the walkways-- mourners, dog walkers and joggers-- And hundreds of crows hiding in the trees And for all the time I spend in optional chaos, In the heat of my desk light, Wearing my own mask, I am fascinated by the dead.
At once completely masked And absurdly naked.
Matthew Vernon Whalan is an eighteen year old writer and student at Marlboro College in Vermont.