tough guys who are & are not

the toughest guy I ever knew

said to me once

you ain’t listening to me

& gave me time to think

I apologised

told him yes

yeah you’re right

my thinking was elsewhere

on what comes next

he slapped my back all gentle

yeah you’re alright

I knew

there was no disrespect intended

& we continued on talking

this other idiot at a bar

took exception as I bellied up

watch who you’re pushing pal!

standing up in his chair

no offence intended I said

looking him right in the eyes

turning my left hand side

toward him right hand free

for whatever happened next

he sat back down turned away

he’d done said

all he could do or say

today

not a quitter

she was a great girl

kept me satisfied nights warm & rested

days sliding by sitting in her kitchen

talking of the world tides habits rides

& then

chopping logs for the winter stove

twisted my back couldn’t lift a roll

staggered back inside

she applied ointments potions unguents salves

laid me flat on the floor massaged my spine

left me needing so much more

& then

I slept fitfully until morning came

made it to the crapper

praying for rain holding on to anything

escape the pain

came the time for paper needing be done

& I couldn’t twist reach area one

& for a minute I wondered pondered on

could I ask? would she?

I made it to do what I had to do

flushed walked unsteady out of there

laughing some

you ok? what’s the matter? she asked

all concerned & I said back soft

just be very grateful

I am not a quitter hon’

done with me

in truth

she had very likely

been done with me for a while

had waited

to find the right time

to let me go

& we all know now

there is no right time

for the unlover

to tell the lover

this is over

stick a fork in it

we’re done

I don’t recall pleading

tho’ I certainly

felt some bleeding

tears coming on

walked away the pain

& when I

turned to look back

she was gone

all quiet sneaking up

they come to me

in the small hours

all quiet sneaking up

& flying soft tears

at having not been

done

the things they wanted

to be

when they were here

seeking comfort

some sense of their years

left behind

& me to forget

the things they said

the hurt from then

poured into punches

verbal physical

& the surprise is

they are still poor listeners

for concerns other

than their own

but now I find

it is easy to ask them to leave

point them towards the light

they could not find

then or now

burned out

there was a time

my ancestors say to me

late in the day

when the moon is low

the wind is sleeping

the sand ceases to move

of a time

when shut up

was never heard

we would bang our drums

sing until morning

or the singing was done

in this way our hands

reached back all the way

to those gone before

& then came

the time of shut up

we were not to talk

sing of these things

that connected us

to those who no longer

walk the day

& like the fire

before you now

growing colder

this is how they

burned us out

ended our culture

done

Do not buy me a headstone

even of thin granite

some light hand carved stone

instead plant me a tree

somewhere remote

a quiet distant hill

wooded valley grove

place my ashes there

come visit from time to time

see how it has grown

think of me nurturing its roots

& how I would love to see

you enjoying the sun

my work then

is forever

done