Brandon Marlon

Upcountry

Inland wayfarers halt at a ramshackle bivouac

off the beaten track by the vermeil light

of sunup for last-minute victuals

as they ready to surmount hurdles,

their eyes aloft toward the summit distant

and neutral to their quest, at best.

 

They espy just ahead amid cacti

the bleached bones of carcasses

picked clean by vulturous scavengers,

beneficiaries of time and chance.

 

Smoke from breakfast fires spirals

yonder into the plain, masking chaparral

and startling patterned rattlers

from their cozy dens onto the warmth

of earth cracked and peeling.

 

Equipped to ascend, the living know

well how impartial wilderness remains

toward civilization’s refugees

who place themselves at the mercy

of forces amoral and untamed;

yet life ever seeks other life,

undaunted by the pitfalls and perils

nested amid nature wild and inviting.

 

Meridian

Some nights stay up till dawn, lost in fugues

of yesteryear; here, of halcyon days and nights

on spacious plains where humped herds

grazed and stampeded, thundering earth

with a rumble echoing through ages,

resounding in the songs and crafts of tribes

carnivorous yet respectful, careful to satisfy

survival’s exigencies, not sport’s excesses,

natives fated to be slain, outthrust from

or corralled within clannish lands overrun

by herds of another kind, droves of long-lost kin

pushing piecemeal seaward unto destiny.

 

Vernal longings distract the nostalgic,

yet the wise recognize, in the wake of scorched earth,

chaparral; amid ghosts, offspring in the flesh.

 

Elders know dolor should receive hospitality,

never tenure. They gaze and glean how yonder

stars burn clearly all through the night,

as must all to view dawn’s new light.

 

Tropics

Ships furrow the waters out at sea

while civilization’s refugees

anneal on the beach,

their pestering cares a world away.

 

By the quay a lone stevedore ignores

heat and thirst, dragging hawsers

along the towpath to moor crafts

gently yet securely, his funicular expertise

accrued over many seasons in austral regions.

 

Below the surface, migrating turtles pause

to munch on seagrass meadows

rich in essential nutrients

while lemon sharks chase rays

through the mangrove’s red roots

growing in tidal shores and deluged

twice daily with saltwater.

 

Aloft the torrid orb parches

equally, the clime’s merciless overlord

punishing by its very presence,

conferring both favor and wrath,

defiantly resisting twilight till

the decisor nightfall settles the struggle.

 

 

The Great Synagogue of Constanta

Amid the forsaken sanctuary grows a tree

green and lanky, tilting with the wind

ever since the roof partially collapsed.

Standing sentinel is the yellow fleurette

Star of David overseeing the amassed debris

below, a congeries of chipped cement,

smashed stained glass, plaster, and wood beams,

ruins overgrown with shrubs, carpeted with dirt.

Arched colonnades uplifted by blue pillars

attest to the Moorish Revival design

of a halidom once admired by Ashkenazim

from near and far keen on the sublime;

now only mean dogs frequent the detritus,

foraging for kosher remnants of another sort.

Where now there lies a rubble heap

once stood a palace aglow with worship;

where filth now strews the floor

once stood congregants before the upraised scroll,

devotees enthroning on their praise the Most High.

The building is the body but the assembly

is the soul; bereft of its sacred entrails,

the desacralized shell succumbs to the elements,

a bittersweet vestige verging on demise,

its hallowed scenes enshrined in memory.

 

Statesman’s Memorial

The deceased, inert in the flag-draped coffin atop a bier

overhears the laudation from a choir of admirers

come from near and far to pay final respects

in a solemn assembly of mourners.

 

Outpourings of grief, gratitude, and melody mingle

under the vast canopy shading from desert sun

ministers, dignitaries, and grandees

keen to preview what their own funerals might resemble.

 

The honor guard stands now at attention, now at ease,

as protocol officers direct proceedings,

rabbis mutter prayers, and the cantor’s voice

chaperones the soul heavenward unto angels.

 

Harmonious diapason cedes to sober monody

as attendees rise and watch uniformed pallbearers

shoulder mortal remains and escort them to their

resting place to be inhumed and covered with sand.

 

None speaks ill of the dead; at such an hour,

elision serves as dignified handmaiden of grace.

Only merits and service are mentioned;

only good intentions are recollected.

 

Let us warmly praise, and bless, and forgive

and ever bear witness to the good;

may our eyes espy virtues

and our mouths pronounce appreciation.

 

 

Brandon Marlon is a writer from Ottawa, Canada. He received his B.A. in Drama & English from the University of Toronto and his M.A. in English from the University of Victoria. His poetry was awarded the Harry Hoyt Lacey Prize in Poetry (Fall 2015), and his writing has been published in 135+ publications in 21 countries. www.brandonmarlon.com.