In rivulets the rain ran down
the unmoving mask of the squatter,
his back to the brunt of the storm,
a drenched deerskin poncho...burnt brown
saturated color, water
soaked since yesterday's lukewarm
sun had been swamped by the slate gray
scudding from the west...tightly clenched
hands snugging it for body heat,
a backwoodsman's attempt to pay
homage to life's comforts fate wrenched
from this outcast defying defeat.
He was cold, worse, vulnerable,
the damp invading everything
it touched, including the prime
of the long rifle...venerable
for generations that cling
to fine weapons, which paradigm
models sound judgment and long life...
lying across his sodden thighs.
Except for the occasional blink,
no part of him moved, the knife
hilt touching his palm. Darkened skies
meant more to be endured, no drink
to dull the chill of gelid dread,
or purge the mind of horror's scenes...
a wife, their child, a future dreamed,
at brutal savage hands lay dead.
Erased were the tracks of four fiends,
ahead of one whose silence screamed
for revenge's satisfaction.
They were near, he sensed, the hard pelt
having eased need for hurried flight,
while watching back for reaction,
their footprints the downpour would melt
away, it falling through the night.
When dark, soundlessly he had stepped
in the game trail and moved forward,
his plan to get in front of them,
the rain washing clean where he'd crept
past, to surprise them coming toward
him who'd inflict final mayhem.
He knew the palisades, the ledge
traversed to get to the river,
where if caught by an enemy,
one died. Beyond, a limestone wedge
had been sheared off, a lone sliver
stood upright, behind which, unseen,
one could view the narrow approach.
They came before dawn through the rain.
Four shadows inched across, between
death and damnation, no reproach
through speech except that sound again,
and again...a paradigm spoke
four times. Pain and the rain remained,
that day, punishment for giving
hope that justice lifts sorrow's yoke,
that suffering might not be ingrained
in the fabric of ones living.
--Fr. Veni di Morte
copyright 2000, The Goober Tree Press, all rights reserved