Still blinking from almost an hour
across the cloudless noontime harbor, we blundered ashore,
braced by handrails, toward a dark three or four flights––
then back outside to glazed Union cannon
in the thick of grasses shifting, tall and golden-tasseled,
at updrafts off the beach.
Atop great walls a few paths ran to salients
from which we looked, far and wide,
toward viridian shoals around coastal rocks.
Later, you sprawled to my left, veiled by glare, while nearly beyond    
on a counterpane even then just threads at the edges.

In that hour it seemed enough calm had passed from hand to hand
that somehow we might survive another Boston winter,
cast like revenants through a crisscross
of passageways, stations, and iron gates.
I remember it poured for months––from dawn to nightfall a cold
         light streaming past the clouds 
into our rooms, our storm-window stares. 

Yet, in that hour when you lay face down on the grass 
high over wide waves and shells dropped to the rocks by gulls, 
we were innocents from a myth that would bear fruit 
so long as there arose, concurrently within us, the ache 
to restore our lives to childhood springs, buoyant but deep-cleft–– 
since these remained times of spoiling empire, 
when every tented nation had been fashioned into a bulwark, a 
        foggy slaveship, 
or field teeming with graves. 

In that hour of distant shouts and bells, the wind 
held an intimated prayer; 
and to wake up to the chase of gulls, the foam-erupting sea, and
         those few 
marigolds flaring like coals against a brittle chimney, 
was to see as children in a circle of surprise. 

There, a nearby flake-toting bug could suggest some hero bearing an
         honor homeward 
because it had crept from the hour’s unforeseen 
bodying forth wonders before us at each turn. 
And that speck with spindly legs, feeling its way 
over a path of flagstones––
that intricate, impulsive presence––could seem to show 
even it unwittingly took on a mission to live and die and delight
         those, like us, 
with defenses surrendered to ways outside the limits–– 
because such ways, far from the bidding or beatings taken, 
had led back to common ground, a surge that rolls without end, 
and the extravagant hour at hand.

                       for Linda Hess 

c2016 by Jeff Grinnell; originally published online at MadHat Lit




                 From our talk I could tell you’re still one of
those myopic middle-class whites who think they
can be everybody's friend merely by conferring
a few supportive words that wouldn’t disturb a
house of cards. . . . ––Letter from Tariq, 1981
When Everybody’s Friend got the message he pushed it back from his plate. Hate mail––and a deadline here! Gulping some waffles, he gaped. Everybody’s Friend was to meet-- in an office upstairs room-- with big-noise dynamos dressed as men. But now this news from the moon–– and the blind side at that, the damnedest–– what could its devils be dreaming?–– what nightmare did they want to share? Gulping coffee, he squirmed. Everybody’s Friend was trembling just as the floorboards flew; crown over toes to Luzon he spun past Mali and Beirut. . . . Faces––that darkened his view––shot by–– the gaunt, the trapped and fierce–– and, lastly, a tangle tying them to frayed-out threads in his sleeve!–– he gulped. And his tour wound down to earth. . . . Then waking before The Trib, he read between far battle lines from holey ruts––to bits! Now Everybody’s Friend had questions in that meeting of like minds who’d considered themselves beyond compare with the least from the line’s end. Gulping coffee down to drops, they shook at the sudden chill then pressed him to close the door while going–– since he seemed to be unwell. Soon Everybody’s Friend walked out on the League of Whole-hog Banquets after a waif––in his dream––withdrew as she melted to blackened lamb. Gulping fresh air, he drifted miles through shadowy streets, like a moon; and took in their news with every pore, his face half glow, half gloom. c2016 by Jeff Grinnell