I will baptize the sky
with new waters,
washing the Birger Sandzen pink
from the clouds.
Cattle reject the reflection in farm ponds.
Trees turn their backs to the horizon and bow.
Indigo night. Angular lights in the distance:
Freight train roars. Empty cars
I will baptize the Earth
with new fire,
scorching stubble and sod
from the Plains.
Cattle nudge clods of dirt for sweet tendrils.
Trees shape words but can no longer spell.
Charcoal cairns point the way to deep furrows.
Growing pains. Orange flames
I will baptize my heart
with new poetry,
into my veins.
Cattle low for soft yodels from cowboys.
Trees sashay to the solos of birds.
Rosy-fingered dawns in my songs? I sail elsewhere.
Orange, blue. Twilight hues
French revolutionaries guillotined God at Cluny, but He exacted
His tithe all the same: one-tenth of their bad ideas tossed back
at them. The tyranny of terror, cheap dream of heaven, in ruins.
A vast emptiness swamps the nave; stumps of pillars stained black
and gray and black again by age and rain and blood. Only one tower
stands intact. I scan the burnished hills behind it; they do not look back.
“The birth throes of liberty,” cried Thomas Jefferson. “Rejoice!”
Despots toppled; authority crippled for a future that never comes.
Terror and waste; waste and terror. The desolation of faith.
On the tiny town square, a high-tech bistro beams. Lights
surge behind the bar, sending out distress signals of the mind:
the throb of synapses firing wildly in the wind. Material infinity.
Old men saunter in to down a beer, and harness their dogs under tables.
Parents and students slurp pricey shots of caffeine. Emancipated energy.
Above the din, they cannot hear the Earth’s foundation crack.
Freedom leaves a sacred void in its wake, watered by the blood
of worldly martyrs. On the menu: égalité, fraternité, fissure and ruin.
Thunder in the hills. Words crash around us like cannonballs.
Liberté lingers outside in the municipal lot. A van propped up
on wooden blocks for the night. No hassles, man. Free parking.
Let’s hoist another beer to Robespierre. His dog strains at its leash.
Arlice W. Davenport was 17 in a high school English class when he read “In Just-” by E.E. Cummings. He was amazed at how words could bounce and skip and zing across the page, and how a poet could twist and turn spacing, punctuation and syntax to make a meaning that was intentional, straight from the heart. He knew that was what he wanted to do with language, too, and has been writing poetry ever since–although he admits that his poetic forms and sensibilities have matured beyond a 17-year-old’s awe. Still, that awe sticks with Davenport. His work, including a paean to “In Just-,” can be found at https://allpoetry.com/arliced