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John Horváth, Jr.


Kosciusko Park

The elders who sit along this street around spiked canon, suck with thin
breath on clay pipes, talk forgotten tongues spiced with children's words.
With wrinkled suits, holes in soles of Sunday shoes, holes in thin socks
on bone skinny feet on bone tired men, they talk of days when these feet
took them seeking after gold cobblestones. Three old men on benches six
feet long watch children waiting for their seats on childhood streets
where I tramped as a child—how very long they seemed not long ago.

Still the elders fill their pipes and wait for fresh fire and smoke to stir
dead souls while in each rust-screened window a white-scraffed widow,
whose womb turned dust in some now dim barely remembered past, knits,
her rheumy eyes not looking, dreaming children half naked in streets
begging and starving—no better off really no my childood streets
where I tramped as a child; How long they seemed not so long ago.
And there are the bars and pool-halls empty as the hearts of the players
who wet their lips and let raw liquid brew in bellies to burn out memories
of children trampling childhood streets. These my childhood streets—
how long they seemed not so long ago—where I ran for a spell then caught
my breath lagging behind, having to wait for it to come up to hiding places,
old ghosted houses whose layered roofs were made to jump across.

It was a good grand invincible city then, before I knew its tenements
and slumlord misery, before I knew the damn thing was a prison
whose snowdrifts piled high over the heads of the biggest of us
where we'd run through the stuff, eat it like cottoncandy before
we knew other snows were white, before mittens and boots and
the street cleaning machines screamed down our childhood streets.
Here are the streets I tramped as a child—my childhood streets
that seemed so long not so very long ago—and there, the children
run like leaves blown into corners, piling high to dry, waiting to burn.



Toward End Time

Over and over in the milk white breast of time
I look forward to good-byes physical as dew
in the mountain mornings on strange rough grass
whose colors turn as the sun creeps into full day.
Over and over on the wide mothering belly of time
I look forward to good-byes small as the whisper
of beetles whose casings litter the forests of days
bent by the summer thunderheaded storms.
Over and over from the waist down toward time
without stopping til the moon mellows full
after beginning a small sliver in the night,
I look forward to good-byes. Good-bye to being
without time for the circumference of you;
Good-bye to wondering whether again you
and I in the ripeness of flesh will cling
as we had—rich with sweat,
with odors of love; you and I, again.
Again waiting for the breath that breaks water,
that orders the moments between life new
and life past, over and over, again.




He loved no place for what it was
but what he could make of it

I recall a wondrous instant: father planting trees
around two stories tall a dwelling of brick brightened
with roseate windows made of glass, and hard-wooded
floor parquetry from discards; with neighbors from birth
until death. we gathered and we sang, we sang sweet
tunes—the last time such airs were sung—for traveling,
whose rhythms were for wagon wheels and ocean waves.
           he made a strange form as if roof and wall -
           it shelters; we called "house"; it became “home”

nor loved he a man for who he was
but for what he might become

I recall a wondrous instant: father planting trees—
plum, almond, peach, and apricot—around that house
of brick two stories tall with windowpanes of glass
and hard-wood floors while neighbors who'd announce
our future births with pagan song and Christian toasts
gathered and sang sweet airs that none might sing again,
rhythms from the roll of wagon wheels and ocean ships.
           He met neighbors—with bulky shoulders, massive necks,
           broad-chested, full of toughness, health and strength
           like animals and trees of the wet North.

           Each face is like a country:
           plain, an open or a wild waste.

He loved no place for what it was but loved
for what he could make of it; nor loved
a man for what he was but for what he could
become—a wondrous instant, I recall

           I was among the guests;
           beer and wine drank I;
           and, what I saw, I put
           into these very books
           under the thatch of a roof.

           It was as if our feet had never touched
           the earth; as if no one had come our way.
           Revolution in his grasp, his planting,
           and his song.


John Horváth, Jr. recently published Golden Hits: 1970-2000 (Pudding House Press), and has also authored Reverend Terrebonne Walker: A Dozen Southern Fried Poems and Iliana Region Poems: Harboring the Enemy.
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