Torch Song

Remember the Soldier Pass,
orange rocks punched by water into seven wormholes 
painted on a cliff that bled into the horizon.
Or the Hudson River,
gray palisades growing into taller and straighter marble giants
as our boat dissected New York’s squawking harbor.

Your memory dam spilled over
during your third stay in the state hospital.
Orderlies ignored your scars,
and only paused to whisper you questions
about fentanyl or ligatures.

Outside the ward, the winter sun flashed 
intense white rays against patches of snow,
beckoning green spring shoots
from the mud I knew nothing about.

Now the ground outside is warm and soft and messy.
I can exhume my torch song from a buried steamer trunk
while you are hard at work,
living the winner’s prerogative
of writing rulebooks and lullabies
that make sense or praise god.

My roots no longer entangle your past,
but baby, I am sure you still hear the gospel I hum,
even as you strain to shut your own ears.

The stations of the cross
you draw with your cigarette
slowly curl the smoke around you
into the hoarse tenor notes of my voice.
They will always bloom from your shoulder,
like an old cartoon of what once was.

© 2020 Ben Woll