Nightfall Sounds of Castanets
Nightfall sounds of castanets;
clacking false teeth,
gripping roses between the gums.
My grandparents and their friends make music
floating over the partitions
of a log cabin now gone,
fallen last time I saw it
with my Uncle before commerce bought his life,
for a million or two or three;
way back when you could talk with the guy.
"Look, Billy, that's all that's left. So tiny."
I know everyone says that — but for my Uncle
it's the first time.
He looks at the tiny terraced steps;
its buckled-wooden-steps stepping quick to the water.
how it held galvanized tubs so big I could
swim in the soapy scum.
That cabin — the Shrine Of The Spruce.
Brown logs, red paint on the round perfect ends.
Hear the clacking china clippers ...
Teeth keeping time with the
on-the-battery radio ... click ... click ...
Bite the arse of time; old ones.
I was seven and I knew
there was one recorder —
my ears cupping lamplight,
eyes taking in red-light from stuffed-baby-alligator-mouth;
plaster holding its little dead
Me scared of the tiny dead
thing. It waits to play
when I have my feet set in plaster.
They'll set me up in the last dead mall,
Some special exhibit,
"A poet!" ... will say the sign ... a little red light in
to scare the kids.
"What's a poet, Daddy?"
Oh, a dead shrunk-up guy
with a little red light between his porcelain teeth.
Got the light so he can read in the night
when people like us are gone home."
"Oh fuck!" says the scared urchin.
"Does he rhyme?"
"Not all the time," he'll say,
and reach in and tighten the red bulb.
Sometimes the woman who works in the pizza place
in the food court tightens the bulb.
When it burns out,
she's the one who changes it.
Then, when the light shines again,
my toes squiggle in dead plaster.
I'll be glad when the mall fluorescents flicker
and dim down,
And I see the little red light of my baby alligator friend.
We'll explore the mall
and go to toy and candy stores,
where I'll toss him
a little plastic auto and yell, "There's Godzilla!"
I'll pretend he scared me
and we'll laugh
our red lights flashing:
Me, the defective recorder,
the only eyes and ears left now to hold
china-castanets, and see teeth in a foaming glass,
watch old fingers dip them out
go to oyster them into the mouth;
hesitate and then ... clack-clack-
to the music instead.
I mix — frogs' choruses with teeth;
and a dying fire crackle;
rain on the roof.
Their now long-dead voices laugh.
Listen ... I'm getting older
Better fucking listen
Otherwise the world will lose the last species of clacking-castanet
Now, wait about sixty years and set it down.