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An August Poem

I. The Calendar

Augustus
Caesar, Kaiser, Czar
We learned about it in grade school
Military recitations
Words marching like dutiful soldiers out of our mouths
We were taught to venerate empire
And colonize our doubts
Subjugation tastes like coffee and spices
A rich man makes his home from the bones of the subject
Imperium
The Latin shone in our minds like gold
The golden sun of august, the crown of summer
The kind of sky that great men wear around their heads
August men, we learned, from Augustus
They added a month to the calendar for him
He was the sort of man who can change time
We, on the other hand, could only watch the clock
And decipher its machinations
Though we only ever saw the hands and not the cogs that moved them
But I am not august
I was born in January, deep midwinter, the turning of the year heavy with cold and gloom
I am like Janus, caught in the middle, straddling two worlds
But I am not a god, no, nor even a king, but just a peasant presenting plainly what I stand in between
Which is the pit and endless sky –
Either way, a void.
When I woke up that morning the sun sliced through the slits between my eyelids like a ring of gold, a halo
I saw Augustus dead in a noose made of barbed wire but ignored my premonition
It was early August, crowning, he wore his crown, she was crowning – we had a girl –
August rolled on, added, extra
Falsified and chopped up from the refuse of the other months
My darling smiled as I left
Her teeth reflected the sun
The late summer august sun
That swallowed me into the distance.


II. Shell Shock
c r ac
k
i see the fireworks

bonfires
witches dancing on their pyres
tire - i am - tired

d –
that –
bang and bam a


flash
white hot
li
ght
she is a dove, her face before me
b re

a

k

s
like china, china,

i always wanted to go
the
empire
they told me the sun never –



the sun is exploding on me, I am
solar
remember the solar systems we made in school? Hers was the prettiest, she helped me make mine beautiful too – we were seven – when we finished she gave me a kiss on the forehead–




head’s up! fire, fire, fire

fire on the head of a king
liar, liar, pants on –




all gone
oh, I am in h


e



l




l
c



r

a
c


k

and i break like china
empire splitting –






sun breaking horizon –










sky



bones are –







bones are –

and flames! And flames! And bones!

The light!


III. The Trenches
My wife is snoring softly, breathing little fairy fogs into the cold air. I want to sleep in the crease of the small of her back or the hollow made by her clavicle, the soft skin and the smell of roses in her hair and the warmth from her rib cage. But my dreams instead take me to the trenches that were wounds in the earth, muddy man made canyons too deep for planting, sown not with seeds but with bones that like a blind woman’s needlework stitched the black watery grounds – and I am –

I am lying in my bed at home. My darling is a girl with swan bones, white blonde hair like curtains, curtains that sweep the side of our little window, curtains that are like sheets. They put white sheets over the bodies, if they were bothered to I mean – those shapes, the formless – the bloody earth that they picked up from where flesh had fallen, where rats crawled like a pestilence, where god sent no angels and the only lights I see are the flashes of cannon that feather like devils across the sky – and I am –

My darling still snores. She’s rumbling inside, softly, like a cat purring, her heart beating – hammering – hammering like mine did, like bullets ripping bone, like the far-off machinery that beat bullets into being, bullets I gave birth to when I tore the package with my teeth, bullets I ran from like I could avoid the force of gravity – or was it inertia? Or momentum? I never paid much attention in school – I should have been a doctor – but I am –

Her father is a doctor. A wise man, kind man, with all his hours neat and lined up straight like soldiers – like dominoes. The doctors that tended to me always told me to sit up straighter. They thought I was hopeless, they were afraid because I raved like a man from Bedlam. But what did they expect? They took my legs and halved them, though my darling assures me that it doesn’t make me half a man. And they shine lights in my eyes and wheel me through springtime gardens – “just to clear your head” they say – it’s like a joke because I see them all walking on their two feet. Afterwards I go to sleep in hospital beds that tumble into trenches, gasping for air that does not sink – and I am –

My darling wakes up with an out-of-the-water gasp. I have been talking in my sleep again.
Her eyes, the color of the earth, find me. “Are you all right?”
“Yes,” I say, thin as a cobweb. “Yes, I am only dreaming of you, my darling.”

IV. Epitaph
I wrote my own epitaph when I was in those graves, my darling
You may not like it,
But I do not care, I will put it on my stone
I will claw my way out of the earth and scratch it onto the concrete if you don’t put it there for me

"Here lies a man who was born to lie
Killed in a hole, lived in hell,
Then died."

And that’s it, that’s the end, I’ve said it, or tried. My words are like dust – six or six hundred – Janus on the cusp
One slip and it’s dominoes, ring around the rosies, we all fall –
The sun, too, the golden sun –
I’m beating, bleeding out of my eyes
That are burned out by the august sun that consumes me
And lies alongside me, lies
Down.




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This article has 2 comments. Post your own!

BirdsingerThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. said...
Jan. 28 at 5:12 pm:
All I can say is, writing poems as elegant as this one during class probably exempts you from taking notes, in my opinion.  So darkly serious yet still gracefully flowing. I doubt I could write anything this impressive, even if I wasn't at a school desk! (; You have a lot of talent. I hope you post more of these fabulous poems!  
 
AmaranthiniumThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
today at 7:54 pm :
thank you!! :) 
 
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