I was searching for you ages ago
When the night wings flew by my window
And the air felt cold.
I was looking for a piece of memory,
a remembrance of your face.
Maybe if I ran across your name
On a headstone, or in a hall of fame,
maybe on a late night radio show
or at vespers during a dark and lonely thought.
Just a fragment is all I have, just a glimpse into a younger day,
When good and bad were neither right nor wrong,
When it was enough to feel your breath upon my face.
It was a time when there was never enough heartbeats between us,
I carried the school books in my hand
And the nightly newsreels
The tracers and the glow of the silent moon.
I would read those books even in my sleep
from the backpack where I carried my grief,
Down the sidewalks and dusty shop displays
To the lonely hollows,
Under the shadows of the night wings passing by.
Through the windows I would watch the clouds,
Wishing I was back in that tender place.
Where my footsteps danced lightly on the cold concrete
Like sparks from the sun.
Maybe it was Chicago or the Viet Cong,
Maybe it was the demons we both carried inside us
Or maybe it was the restless hauntings that disturb me still
Like the drag of the dark wings on a vengeful night
I didn’t want to walk or run any more
Or feel the chill of the dank air on my face.
I didn’t want to lie awake and hear the sounds,
The sounds of my own lonely bed
The sounds that kept ringing in my ears
like the beatings and thrashings
Of the night wings whisking by.
There you were
with your blackened eye,
Lucky to live and lucky to be alive
When the tires lifted from off that dark highway
And made you airborne
for a hundred yards and more
And the moment that the tree top brought you down,
Setting aflutter the night wings from their watch.
There were only questions then
And no answers came forth
Only tears that gushed
when they took you away
With your blackened face
and your shattered leg
And the truth of never seeing you again.
I had that moment once before,
Maybe I was two or maybe three or four
When my mother was taken away like that.
And that was when that empty feeling
came inside me, like the deadfall tree crashing down.
Forty years now have come and gone
I’m still a walker but I don’t cry.
The bone spurs and my knee joints
have slowed me down and I now land
my footsteps with a dull thump
as I make my way back home,
away from the silent invisible
wings still catching the wind
I’m in the kitchen, now that the house has stilled,
And my thoughts are dancing
in the valleys and hills
With the guitar strings and the dance steps
I had that moment before
In the purple of the evening,
In the blazing embers
Backlighting the clouds,
In the whisper of promise
landing upon my brow.