FOUR IN THE AFTERNOON

VERONICA'S SONG
The Sixth Station of the Cross

She makes it just in time
simply
by a minute

pushes to the front
his face already pressed
between pages of her past

with hers now pressed at him
beneath
the latest weight of wood

he pauses
at an arm's length
from her thin grip on sanity

bearing the burden
of a world gone mad
upon his back

his face
a peeling mask of bleeding
salt and tears

she moves to him
lifting the loose folds
of her robe

gathers them
in swathes and bandages
about his broken head

and he prints out his agony
into her hands
upon her soft dress cloth

shocks them with the stab
of thorns and nails
and fire

as always as before
brings her back
from the edge of darkness

as always as before
leaves her with nothing but
the knowledge of himself.

PASTORAL CARE

for Vickie

 
 Outside the warm lighted classroom
 with the rain banging on the road
 you stopped in here at last
 to say you were leaving.

 Two cities in less than two years
 before that you have forgotten how many.
 This time the going hurts more
 for the tall red-headed boy

 with the rain in his hair and steaming jumper
 stands moonfaced in the open doorway
 watching you as in a flood
 you tell me how the crowded years have been.

 And I wheel silently confounded
 at the centre of your desperation -
 your hooded half smile toward the door
 'Lee cares - and at least he's gentle.'

 Before him the boy with the knife
 and other things that will bang in my head
 like the rain, tomorrow, after you're gone
 with a neat red line through your name.

 You always sat somewhere vaguely to the left
 and I taught you more about talking in class
 than I ever did about poetry
 tossing your hair with wild defiant eyes.

 But now you are easy, 'See ya then Sir
 thanks for evrythin - and for lisnin.'
 Swinging down and out
 to the tall boy with the red hair.

 I watch you go, silently to the outside
 where the rain is banging on the road - and
 more, here with a pile of papers
 I close my eyes against an early darkness.

 Humid heat and sticking, my blue shirt sags
 my fingers are clenched at rough edges of
 the desk and I pray to whatever gods there be:
 that you can go this time, in safety, somewhere.

 
 
 
© 2020 Jeff Guess