The Complete Jim-Bob, Shepherd-Man

In This Monody the Author Bewails a Learned Friend, Unfortunately Left for Dead in Distant Lands, 2014. And by Occasion Reveals the Ruin of a Defunct Tradition, Long Fallen from Grace.

I.

Yet once more, yet
Down, crawling down on arid plains,
Parched plains where I search, I…
Search for my flock.

I cannot find my flock.
I cannot find my flock. I

In mountains while they drown
With thirst, while they search for
Deep pools I knew of once. Long ago.

Who would not feed my flock? I
Cannot find
My flock. I

Alone on ridges, moored to a mad man who
Scratches ruts in ridges down there, down
There I hear him, yes humming? Yes? Humming such
Sweet songs down
Below.

Should we stop and listen? They
Are such sweet songs. They should not
Float by, unheard
In these dry mountains, in these parched
Desert lands. I

Will listen.
I will write.

II.
Arise then, you sister siblings, you spawn
Of nine nights of lust and leavings. Arise!

But… where have you gone? I have
Forgotten your mother’s name. I think
Though that she would not be pleased
By this, by this mess of broken harps,
With strings frayed, and by those
Unbound books smoldering so close
To propane fires – yes so close – and
Fed by pens and pages
Ripped from dictionaries. Yes,

I see “Myth” withering in the flames, like a fist
Forming over stolen rubies. And cigarettes still,
Still smoking by glasses with lip stains. Doors
Slamming shut down dark corridors
We dare not take. Foot-steps. Moonlight echoes
Falling across fountain-splashed,
Cold courtyards. Even

The woods whisper of our loss. See
How they hunch together in close conclaves
Of rattling leaves. Also

Our sheep seem so bored
By us, casting back dull,
Hollow eyes – laughing even
In dank desert caves.

They never come when I call,
Howling on my horn.

The apples are: apathetic.

I trudge through grasses that,
Yawningly, sway
Away.

III.

So where were ye guides? Teachers? Shepherds
Of us shepherds? I searched. I searched and saw:

Dead pens, bleeding ink. Busts of bards
With hoary heads: missing. Gone. Taken by
Untamed, wild women who float broken
Hands down stagnant streams, where the drowned
Poet still sings to say:
“Lines fall down here. Bobbing in streams
Without source. Yes, I harshly sing. My
Dry, wasted voice. Please… just please
Sift my limbs from the muddy river. We
Must face the thankless muse, intact. We

See things align. And bent books bend
Back. Yes, washing our tired eyes we see:
The cold casket come.”

IV.

They say the unshorn sheep
Drug off the corpse, and mourn
It now in mountain caves. But,
Still they come, these sad shepherd men, groping
Among the weeds groping, scratching
On this brittle, battered box. Look…

Whitman’s dry walking stick snaps. He
Tumbles down, devouring dust, and
Cries:
“My boots! My boots! I’ve lost
My boots along the way. Down
In the dust, barren of boots.”

Melville, there, watch as he walks
Anxiously pacing, pawing
His sweaty palms together.
Knocking off black hats he does. Wailing
For water in our dry, wasted land.

Eliot, too, fishes from a fir stump. His line
Broken, gnawed through by rats creeping
Through the slimy vegetation.
“Twit twit,” he mumbles. “Jug Jug,”
He cries. Echoes these

That touch an aged Odysseus. Bent man. Hunched
Over man twisting and turning round and
Round the casket carriage, tapping
As he goes –
Ta-tap, on each wagon wheel. Ta-tap. Tap.

Then… comes Milton. Look. He stumbles, blinded,
Frayed fabric lashed to his eyes. While
One hand hangs down, dangling, dropping
Ivy seared and brown.
“Blind mouths,” he mutters. “Dull,
Blind mouths.”

V.

Surely, though, these mourners must not
Be blamed. They plod – along – searching
As we all – search – see
How they look up,
But are not fed. No,
The nostalgic nightingale falls

From the tree. Its lament
We cannot hear
Its lament.
Crying, “Jug Jug”
To our waxed over ears.

VI.

“Is that a capsule we pull up
From the earth?”
That’s time’s grave
That is. “Find then a hammer then.”
No.
We’ll smash it with our hands. “Move
Aside. Move Aside. One, two,
Three…”
“Jug, Jug.” On
The ground, trampled. “Jug.” The

Books we take
Down from the
Shelves. The compass
Wanders round
And round
The map that
Describes
Pastures we
Cannot find.

The clocks are covered,
In canvas.

Round we go. Round
The prickly pear at 5 o’clock in…

“Jug.”

(… Madness. Was that madness,
Just then? I heard:
A dread voice. But it has past,
Shrinking back into
Stagnant streams that do not flow.
We should proceed then,
Plodding our way through…)

VII.

The cedar saplings strewn with broken
Bits of straw. While tall, sparkling amaryllis
Rises above the rest of syringa
Trees, mute in fir forests draped in
Aphroditic rosemary – “that’s for remembrance” –
While white periwinkle fastens itself to

The ground. But, these flowers grow beyond
Our reach. We must not crawl content through
Cedar saplings, frail and withered, while green
Spotted rhododendron poisons our water-bound
Lilies of the swamp we slog through,
Burdened by the coffin we carry, plucking as

We go: Hyacinths. We love:
Hyacinths. “They called me
The hyacinth girl.” Rising up red
From the dead,
Parched brown land.

VIII.

So weep on, woeful shepherds, weep on.
We slouch towards the water-side, gazing
Up at the cliff-side, where, efficiently
Done, crisp figures on jagged peaks hurl over
Our rich, time-worn tomes. While we bleat.
Wailing when they smash and crash
Into the waves, sinking

Down, deep, beyond our reach they
Go. They go. Never to rise again. So,
We wait, aimlessly. Waiting on
Our lone shore.

Wiping tears from pale eyes.

IX.

Thus sang the uncouth swain to his purblind
Flock, to those who hear his wail, but
Bend not to his words. Just

Gorging. Gorging
Gaily they go, picking at weeds, roving
Aimlessly over hills. Of

Pasture lands pale.
Wasted. Sinking
Into the western bay. Away

Then, I’ll go up to fresh woods with
Deeply rooted trees. Where the song
Sings. Where the fresh pasture acres
Wave with fresh grasses that sing
In soft breezes… and that I, lone man
Wandering away,
Long to hear.

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