Submitted Date 06/25/2019

A Prose Poem In Two Voices, I Heard Like Dictation
Age 26, Apex, North Carolina, 1970
-- This is one poem, in an autobiographical series of poems, that I posted here at WriteSpike. Go to my stories section for others. They are in chronological order. --

This prose poem came to me like dictation. See the previous poem here at WriteSpike for an explanation.
The illustration for this prose poem is of Charles Dickens imagining and listening to the various characters he created.

He remained in the shrouded room. Rags and dirty plates lay like shells across his bedside table. From time to time we rolled him over and washed his bedpan out. The blind-covered window webbed the room in silhouettes.
He took a long time to die.
Afternoons of summer rain came upon the house.
At times his arms would tense, the sheets would bunch between his fingers, and I would loosen his grip and straighten out the sheets. But he never answered.
Mother asked him. She motioned to the grave in the fields but he turned his face to the wall. Finally, she kissed him and left.
We waited through the hot summer nights, the waves of his fever. As he shivered, we wrung out the old clothes and placed boiled ones on his forehead. He would watch us...Then we waited, playing cards...

I've seen the tree outside my window and the monument beyond, in the fields by the pump house.
Now I watch the leaves swish their dress over the yellow blinds. The wallpaper is tearing. Repeated and repeated across the room is a black design of a dark carriage rolling behind bushes and a rider on his horse, who blows a trumpet. Shadows hide and reveal the carriages, rider, bushes that never move but run over my room.
I had a dream...of a black sea lapping at my window. I saw it covering the glass. I wanted to feel the water but I could not move. Slowly darkness covered my bed like wild vines. It carried me out beyond the shadows of my window, the sunlight on the trees, and bore me to the end of the horizon where I became a wave of night.
The bedpan is full again. I wish they would empty it and bring me clean sheets...But I won't call them. They'll come. They think I should join the grave in the fields, but I'll not die for a while. Together we lie in this light...
It has rained for the last week. But a break in the clouds, a sudden muted light will fill the room. Then I can see...cracks in the floor...threads of dust...the path worn around the bed and bureau...the old copper in the grandfather clock...plaster breaking through the carriage and rider on the walls.
A flush of clouds again will smother the room. Then I'll mingle my fingers with the sheets and look to the flaps of shadows on the blind.
And for the last week pain has come in spurts. It presses on the small of my back. I turn to miss it but it comes again. I can feel the waves rush on.

The rain falls for the second week. How soon will he fill his grave..? We have carried him for months. He had left us for good. When he returned several months later, he said nothing.
He stayed in his old room. On the bureau, he set out some stones he had gathered since he left.
Although he came to dinner, he talked to no one...One day in June when he did not down to eat, we found him feverish. A grayness had taken over his eyes. So still the form lay and let us undress him. Yet he did not die. For two months he lay in the heat, unmoving.
One night I could not rest. I walked down the hallways to free myself from sleeplessness.
As I came to his door, I saw it was open. I stood before it feeling moved to go in, but afraid.
Then slowly, as if being taken, I slipped between the opening and went in.
Threads of light filtered in from the living room. The outline of his back was to me. He was asleep; I stood observing his body. How his breathing hesitated through his empty frame.
Now I hear the heavy ticking of the grandfather clock that fills the room with moments, spaces between each tick, shadows that appear and flutter away.
I look to the mirror above the bureau where a strange light not coming from the living room, but seeming to come from behind the glass, is pulling me toward it.
Two diamond points pierce my eyes. I turn. He sleeps with his eyes open. I see through the web of darkness.
I ran out of the room, banged against the bed...the hallway, out the front door. Then gathering breath, I walked outside. I lay under a tree to quiet the light that had entered and moved within me.

My bed seemed comfortable tonight. It never has before. Something large and empty surrounds hovers beyond my room. The clock ticks.
I think I went to sleep and dreamed the bed was a shell that grew around me. I awoke watching the filmy light change like clouds across the mirror.
A large form emerged in my room, stood silent for moments, walked to the mirror, then turned toward me.
Suddenly it leaves. Ticking fills the room. I can hear the beating of the drum...a closing and opening like bellows outside the room; the walls seem to move like flaps and the breathing comes close, spilling through the cracks, over-coming my heart, the room; I am taken across the light.

Over the fields, the sun rose. The monument cast its shadow; I saw it crawl through the grass. Light filled the leaves above in the tree that I lay against.
I felt something heavy passing. My stomach calmed. A seed had come to rest. I lay terrified between the tree roots, and I slept.
When I awoke I returned to the house. Mother said that he had died. Something was gone from her eyes and a grayness had come to fill it.
All day the family moved in pantomime. While his grave was dug...his body prepared...we dressed.
In the late afternoon, we carried his coffin, so light now, to lie next to the monument. Behind the coffin, mother led, covered in a black veil, her robes fluffing in the hot breeze.
We buried him.
We returned to the house.
We stayed in the living room as the sun went down. Mother looked out the window at the two graves beyond.
We waited as twilight filled the room.
No one got up to turn on the lights. A blanket of night covered the graves and filled the house.
We waited.


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  • Kiersten Felch 2 months, 2 weeks ago

    Just wow!!

    • Rick Doble 2 months, 1 week ago

      Thanks -- A: what a great compliment and B: you get it!