Poetry and Prose by Wess Mongo Jolley

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Distant Thunder

I. The First Year

Somewhere, off our mountain,
the rumors say old
battles continue.

But here the sun is warm,
and distant wars mean
little to hummingbirds.

News can be slow to reach us,
and harder still
to comprehend.

Yes, we know they are dying still.
But the planes don’t fly over
here anymore,

and although the thunder can sometimes sound
like a thousand marching feet, the storms
mostly pass us by, and do not stop to rain.

So we water the garden,
and we are putting in
a new window box this year.

We have plenty of birdseed,
and power outages don’t
get noticed until dusk.

Strangers on the road
with dark and weary eyes
often stop to look up our hill.

We see them, but look away to watch
the sunset. And when we look
again, they are gone.

II. The Second Year

We gather wild berries
that grow in the shaded
gully behind our house.

I find more, so
when you’re not looking
I put some of mine into your pail.

We eat them together in
the silent morning air, a sweet
breakfast gone too soon.

Warm sunlight streams through
the open windows
of our sleeping home.

We’ve long since stopped, you
and I, flipping useless light switches,
or listening for the hum of the refrigerator.

We’ve become accustomed to the silence.
Especially since that day
that the last of the batteries died.

That first year we talked incessantly.
Shared our lives and tears
on days far too long.

But we share mostly silence now.
And when we talk
it is of counted canned goods,

the mushrooms we will risk, where
we saw the last rabbit, and
how much water weighs.

The sky is always blue
now, with never a white line,
and rarely even a cloud.

I remember when you used to say
how useless you thought
it was to go on.

But now we just do, because
to lie down and stop
just feels that much harder.

I try to feel, to love, your
sleeping form. And I seem
to remember when I did.

But now there is only time
to keep the knives sharp, and hope
they won’t be needed in the night.

III. The Last Year

To find you in
the forest I only need
to follow your laugh.

It’s not the last thing
I thought I’d lose,
your laugh.

But it is what
remains of our once
endless decade.

Your laugh,
and a few more days
to count together.

Your laugh,
and a shady tree.
With a squirrel

who watches
as we sit down
to wait.

     (First published in Warrior Poets, edited by Ko Shin Bob Hanson, 2013)


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