CAIN'S PSALM

And even if he was a farm boy,

What might mark him as one?

His hair streaked with sun?

His jaw-- or his shoulders

Wider than the world,

Or the awkwardness that followed

And lived with him like an old mule.

She had called him farm boy,

Said he was here for just a visit, a tourist

With a holiday shirt,

As if she knew what he felt.

He would hide here,

In the dark bar leather afternoon,

Away from the postcard promenade

Glaring brightly beyond the open door,

Away from the sad paintings hung along the fence

Of the famous square.

He wasn’t one of them,

Like the man there with camera and tummy,

Taking bad art in hand

To carry home--

He had no cheap memories.

She was pretty and the streets near the levee

Smelled of palms and rusted tin,

She laughed and trees danced
Over roofs, black fences,

And balconies

With shutters shut in midday.

They had smuggled a kitten on the streetcar,

Given it catnip before their bed

Kicked free of covers,

And dabbed its nose with wet brushes

As they watercolored one afternoon.

Another hour struck beyond the door,

And the bells sent the pigeons up to circle,

And the sun grew

In the gleaming chrome of the shopping carts

The artists used to tote their wares to the square.

They had talked of stealing one from the grocery,

--That was a plan, wasn’t it?

The man with the red beard,

The man that broken her marriage

Like you might snap an egg on the edge of a pan-

The man who was to follow her

Here,

Had arrived.

The farm boy knew what she had to do.

He would have her on the Sunday porch swing,

Sitting up straight, folding her gloved hands,

As the bells would call the priests to prayer.

But she wasn’t his to command.

Shadows were growing long beyond the open door,

The artists seemed to shiver

As they packed their things away,

Soon he would have to decide

If the dark would draw him out

To stalk her streets,

Or if sheer fatigue could lull him to sleep,

To dream about what might have been.

He would find the dawn

Either way,

His sacrifice perfect,

His splintered heart angry and empty,

He had followed her, only to curse

The red glass of their window,

Reflecting the sunset lost.

And he had slept- such as it was-

Dreaming of axes and blood

While staring wide- eyed like a snake

At stars frozen in endless night.