[This is a prose poem from Oliver Pitcher's 1958 book DUST OF SILENCE. For more Pitcher poems, see the anthology EVERY GOODBYE AIN'T GONE; more info. in sidebar.]
Holding the last of his old-found toys, he subjects himself to grim inventory which he makes whenever a son is born. The close quarters of the closet of his mind, to alien nostrils has the smell of fever and the sound of gurgling in sewers.
First, the reactionary is gouache. There! There he sits, his graystone face chiseled with Brahmin hands, behind a long black desk, on a swivel chair that never swivels. His dictionary has one word: NO buttered out generously to everybody everything everyday. His mind is a curved line starting at void ending at vacuum tripping over raspy negatives all the way. Gray hair and little cabbages are growing from his ears. One day, in a whistle voice, he said: MAYBE. Clarions blew in large rooms! Shimmying eucalyptus, shattering the tombs! A stallion ran wild into the horizon and the sun rose high on a new gray day. And from The Sitters favorite kidney a mite-y sprout grew;
second, the prayer houses. Above the chants, organ and sputterings of the blindly devout in the service
Service, the most impressive elements are the silences.
These he has preserved in a glass ball;
fourth, marriage. Marriage, the shopgirl’s technicolor dream, the dream of the heir to the nuts-and-screws millions married to the heiress of the dynamo zillions; marriage, the dream of the poorgirl already two months gone, and the nightmare of the woman valiantly scarred;
fifth, bits of paper; credos, documents, agreements, treaties, all labeled
scratched out, rescribbled, tucked away in a vest pocket.
(He knew none of these things when.)
On closer observation we notice the closet isn’t a closet at all. His house had been bombed like all the rest. Ideals are taught early in life; thereafter, right on through to the deathbed, experience nullifies one ideal after another; so many bombed statues to the left and right of the paths. With his chain of keys is a bottle opener; this is the key to his kingdom. So we see, the closet is really an outhouse.
In a moment’s pause, he turns to face his day.
Not below, not above, but directly ahead. I suspect there are few among us who can exchange, transmigrate, and see his day as he . . .
Interrupted, he interrupts: "I see the day before myself, and I am true to it. Fill in your days; go racing across your worlds on squeaky crutches." The cry of a new born son heralds the day; the iconoclast returns to his inventory.
Silence; it exalts us with its rareness.