the rivers of it, abridged

New York City skyline at night




Michael Palma

The Old Order

That's my grandfather glaring from the wall,
Looking as if he disagreed with what
You had to say before you even said it.
I never saw that side of him at all.
They tell me, though, that once his salesclerks got
Their first glimpse of that scowl, they learned to dread it.

Everybody lived in a house this grand
When I was small. What else was there to know?
After grandfather died, my father had
To close the stores and sell off half the land.
And when I'm gone, the rest of it will go.
There's no one left to leave it to. It's sad.

Grandfather went when he was sixty-three.
To think that a clogged heart could clench and kill
A man like that, there's just no getting round it,
It's tragic. But he got the best of me.
He died believing that the world was still,
And always would be, just the way he'd found it.



A father's scowls, a mother's sneers
Surround her from her infancy.
Emotional cacophony
Becomes the music in her ears.

All that she knows is to be hurt,
And what she knows puts her at ease.
She walks through decades on her knees,
Seeking a place amid the dirt.

And yet there are the memories
Of times when she was moved to tell
Some boss, some man, to go to hell.
Sometimes at night she thinks of these.

With every earthly impulse spent,
On her last bed of nails she lies
With nothing she'd do otherwise.
She turns aside and is content.



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