“Childhood Hymn Without Music,” “Old Enough” and “Next, Then”

Issue 50 by Benjamin Green

“Childhood Hymn Without Music,” “Old Enough” and “Next, Then”

Childhood Hymn Without Music

Milkweed, tumbleweed,

native grasses (unworthy of names, I guess):

the prickly pews above a red clay floor;

my first church was

on the other side of the backyard gate

in childhood.

On still days, it was hot,

filled with complaint,

but the hymn of the wind

was near constant—

in flow out flow—

fed by an ocean ten miles distant

and a desert

fifty miles over a blurred ridge of mountain.

My first faiths:

in the cool afternoon breeze,

in winter rains, and

in spring after spring:

            new weeds,

            the miracle of life, shelter,

            sanctuary, contact with

            what I would learn to call

            the sacred.

I was lonely,

but never alone:

            rocks, dirt, weeds, insects, birds,

            snakes—

            the sudden burst of a jackrabbit from the sagebrush….

 

were my accompaniment.

All I needed was a psalm

to explain this companionship.

Old Enough

Old enough that mysteries unsolved

do not grieve me at the edge of a soft night;

drifting moonlight calls no thought from me

of desire or romance.

In darkness, the junipers

lose their stunted posture,

and blend into star shadow.

I never learned the names of stars,

can no longer hear owl or coyote

(or the startled cry of their prey).

Old enough, I find comfort

in the moon's glow on red dirt,

but still cannot sleep:

another shadow under fading stars.

Next, Then

First came the rain,

a rain that would last for days,

and then came the cold.

I don’t remember any snow,

but I remember the mice came next.

I heard them at first,

a discordant song in the walls,

under the floor.

Then I smelled them:

the odor of wild piss,

followed by the stench

of dead meat. There was silence, briefly,

before the flies appeared, lots of them.

I was stuck inside my house

in the next rain,

that would also last for days;

trapped inside, with flies.

Then, it was dead flies.

Then…

Everything went back

to being

normal.

About the Author

Benjamin Green

Benjamin Green is the author of 11 books, including THE SOUND OF FISH DREAMING. At 52, he hopes his new work articulates a mature vision of the world and does so with some integrity. He resides in New Mexico.