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Reluctant Wisdom

By Robert Russell



To care for his grandmother was never part of the plan,

and the relocation disrupted a near-perfect life.

The boy reluctantly succumbed to the circumstances at hand

that fomented nothing but indignation and strife. 


Before the boy’s eyes flashed the times he could not forget:

nights of utter debauchery, friends and lovers, scenes of ecstasy,

flashing lights, sounds, bedrooms reeking of lust and regret,

pastel mornings, golden eventides illuminating the city.


But now, rolling, gray blankets loomed in lieu of the sky,

enshrouding a dead town like a coffin under a pall.

Black crows flew, incanting doom with their cries,

their hollow, crow shadows scattered, encompassing all.


Surely he was dead as his world was a tomb,

and the flickering flame in his heart went out.

Gray, static darkness pervaded a wall-less room

and onto to deaf ears, the boy shout and shout.


Ennui, discontent, and disdain plagued the boy’s senses,

and he searched for a culprit on which to place his blame.

From fleeting options founded upon false pretenses,

the fault fell onto his grandmother’s name.


Begrudgingly and with resent, the boy kept his word hereof.

Feigning cordiality under the guise of a smile,

he hiked the trek to her house daily, always greeting the dove

that sat above, perched high on a lamppost, midway through the mile.


Why did the lonely dove never fly away?

It gnawed at the boy’s mind; any place was better than here.

Such a privilege the thing overlooked every day.

The boy passed the dove in envy, coos still in his ear.


His visits were a chore, a mundane and futile task.

In silence they sat, read the paper, or dined.

Every so often she had but one question to ask,

“Please, dear, would you get me more wine?”


Day in and day out, the same routine never changed.

To his grandmother’s he went for an evening in vain.

It was an endeavor in itself–just keeping his fury restrained,

but nonetheless he endured it, despite the incredible strain.


On one such evening, things took a turn for the dire.

His grandmother faced the boy and spoke from her heart.

Her voice, a soft timbre not of derision nor ire,

intoned a prophecy that seized the boy from the start.


She said, “‘Forever’ is but a capricious fallacy of time;

a veil, opaque to those who feign sincerity,

to those who smother the truth, a broken paradigm,

and to those who choose blindness, false reality.


But he who steps from the dark into light

seizes the truth and escapes Plato’s cave;

to love and to learn, to read and to write,

he etches an inscription that surpasses the grave.”        


Such were the words that inspired reawakening,

and her tattered face reversed in the young man’s eyes.

The window to his world shattered, and his new reckoning

vanquished the indefatigable source of his demise.


His vision cleared as the veil drifted away,

and life took new meaning, breath, and hue.

Pride, greed, and moral disarray

evanesced as the gray sky turned blue.


Thus revealed the revelation of the tomb,

all buildings, stores, bystanders, and lovers.

Light unearthed the soil and exhumed

a town reflecting a new dream discovered. 


The young man began to write; his pen moving with gusto

upon the paper before him when he heard a soft laugh. 

She gently spoke, “‘My hours are married to the shadow,’

a quote from ‘The Colossus,’ by the late, great Plath.”


Then in the dim light, her smile fell, her face paled:

an acceptance of her fate, the young man could infer.

Before his shock and shouts, she shut her eyes, softly exhaled.

Time is life’s greatest foe and its own saboteur.


The morning after, the news bore a torrential downpour.

Rippling sheets of rain pummeling the ground below;

shaking signs, and saturating the pavement floor,

lightning flashes, her face in the afterglow. 


Amid tidal waves of familial sobs and wails,

the young man maintained countenance and posture.

Providing consolation while collecting past tales,

he scripted drafts of a eulogy, minding the imminent future.


Over the sequence of mourning, the young man wrote and wrote,

and he retraced the steps of his daily trek in vain. 

Looking for inspiration, remembering old stories and quotes,

the young man found something unexpected along the terrain.


Halfway down the path, a dead dove lay on the ground

under that lamppost dully illuminating the cracked concrete.

Feathers disheveled, and dried blood speckled around,

the young man glanced upon the dove, feeling sadness and defeat.


Then icy winds picked up, rustling leaves in the gust,

and a low murmur in her familiar voice cut through the roar.

He turned his ears, covering his eyes to avoid the dust,

and there he found his words, hope and suspire restored.


To his desk he ran, and there took hold his mighty pen.

The pages filled themselves, the ink poured like a stream.

Reading and revising passages every now and again,

before long, the young man held an elegy of honor and esteem.

At the pulpit, the young man stood, relieved in that bright, religious light,

and he looked upon his work remembering how he had loved her.

He gazed upon a sea of faces, silhouettes to his left, forward, and right,

and he began his speech reciting, “An ode to my grandmother.”

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