He was younger than my oldest son, my father.
It was spring it was Europe it was the war
after the war to end all wars. Only fools
believe that war solves anything, he told me
forty years later. What it does, he remembered,
is change the young and kill them and their hope
and their believing. But not their nightmares.
Metal carries internal fissures; heat and water
temper them. Men carry knives more flexible
than combat as sharp as terror as deadly as politics.
Annealing that’s what Europe gave my father.
And death death in foreign languages
death in foreign weather foreign unknowable death
Death that became familiar
~ for Ishmael Reed
My literary lovers aren’t like me. It is not by choice
that I follow the tracks of black men, gay men, dead veterans.
Who I am is all of these men I never was and never will be.
Somehow, a bridge connects each of us to one another. Cowboys
to angry Indians, men betrayed by women to this woman
who in her journey out of darkness watches
for the light thrown by these men who prowled the margins
floating down the river in boats with words for rudders.
Made homeless by other men always white men of my own kind
my father shouted when I loved you. But the ancient god speaks
who created everything & everyone even the white sidewinders
reminds me: all pools reflect light. Looking at light is looking within
into the darkness deep within us. Each of my lovers maps
alleys, hairpin curves, and switchbacks of roads
set up to carry us away from bridges, away from all of light’s
illumination. Not to follow is to submit to shadows.
Not to follow is to submit.
Britton Gildersleeve’s poetry has appeared previously in Nimrod, Passager, Spoon River, This Land Press, Futures Trading, Lincoln Underground, Atlas Poetica, and Florida Review, and other journals. She has three chapbooks: two from Pudding House, and one from Kattywompus Press. She blogs at https://teaandbreath.com.