William Ogden Haynes is a poet and author of short fiction from Alabama who was born in Michigan. He has published nine collections of poetry (Points of Interest, Uncommon Pursuits, Remnants, Stories in Stained Glass, Carvings, Going South, Contemplations, Time on My Hands and The Works) and one book of short stories (Youthful Indiscretions) all available on Amazon.com. Over 200 of his poems and short stories have appeared in literary journals and his work is frequently anthologized. http://www.williamogdenhaynes.com
Elephant in the Graveyard
She never had much use for her father and would only visit him on rare occasions. He was an alcoholic who kept to himself and had little to do with his daughter or anyone else. The last time she saw him, she knew he was on the way out. He had the pale-yellow complexion of a person with a failing liver. But he hung on, the one remaining brown leaf in the Fall, dangling from an otherwise bare branch. The end was sudden and inconvenient, like the breaking of a shoelace at the worst possible time. She was snowed-under at work and the pandemic made life in general, more difficult. At the graveside service, a sparse group of mourners were gathered in heavy coats with collars turned up against the frigid wind. Her father had no friends and the few people there came only because of his daughter. There was a bruise of clouds that day and the wind nudged the edges of the funeral home canopy over the grave. The mourners shared firm handshakes and hugs with her, with no mention of her father. They gazed deep into her eyes to let her know they appreciated the bittersweet nature of the occasion. The funeral director finally arrived with a minister in tow. She would probably have to pay him extra to say nice things about someone he had never met. But the preacher stuck to the scriptures, had nothing to say about her father as a person, instead focusing on the promise of eternal life. Eternal life for her father was fine, as long as she wasn’t a part of it. Eternal life would also have been attractive to her father, as long as it included Jack Daniels.
I remember how on awakening, she would divulge her greenblue eyes, like sapphires cut brilliant as a promise. I remember the way she said good morning from the pillow, yawned slow and drawn out as a whole note. I remember how she looked, her dress gossamer thin, the bloom of her skirt in the wind. And I remember how she walked, her tanblack stilettos stabbing the gravel, pony tail bobbing like a pendulum with every step. I remember the strange feeling of being in love, alien to me as stardust. I remember the night I listened as she quietly took her suitcase from the closet, stole down the stairs and softly shut the screen door never to be heard from again. I remember, after that, I often referred to her as uncaring, but then, that would have been far too romantic a term.
That morning, the low-slung sun was just beginning to rise in the east, chasing the darkness from city doorways. A poet sits on a wrought iron balcony on the second floor of a local hotel watching the sun creep down Bourbon Street. Only an hour before, the sanitation trucks power-sprayed thousands of gallons of chlorinated water on the street and sidewalks, washing away the previous night of revelry, urine and beer. The power-washing pushes cups, beer cans, beads and lost clothing into piles awaiting the street sweepers that pick-up debris and give the street an extra brushing. Pigeons dive in front of the street sweepers in perfectly timed sorties to gather popcorn and french fries before they are vacuumed up. The poet takes a sip of his coffee and unzips a browned banana, hoping that today will be productive. Lately, he has seen too many nascent poems suffocate on the page, suffering erasures and cross-outs, the offending paper ripped from the tablet, crumpled and thrown across the room. He scans a list of poem starters from the internet for a new idea, but that usually results in disappointment, like trying to retrieve a sliver of the future from a fortune cookie. And then, looking down from the balcony at the police rousting a sleeping drunk, he realizes that all the inspiration he needs is in the people, sounds, smells and textures of that wet New Orleans street.