Downtown St. Louis on Your Birthday

for Albert S. Hatcher (1904-1980)


years tumble now
like water loosed
from dams
of sticks and mud
in forest creekbeds
that cradled
frail dreams;

these structures
never held long
though the brook
was small
and water
trickled only
mounted slowly
like minutes.


now I am like you,
several years back
scurrying to catch up
collecting days
in closets
like clippings
from old papers
turning to dust;

in time
I will give up
leave memory behind
in these dilapidated
tenement dwellings,
abandoned redbrick elders
with their gargoyles,
pseudo Greek colonnade,
and brocade darkened
like dried blood.


a premature fall chill
stings my face
and you are
in my mind
part of all this

I tried to
forget you once,
your anachronistic
penchant for order,
your pained nobility,
but you taught me
all too well
your daily lessons,
reflexes bequeathed
by your Christian
farmer father.


nothing passes
slowly now
not baseball season
train rides
or summers;
but here in this
neglected corner
of St. Louis
is the perennial hope
of September
because we are
an autumnal clan
bound by zodiacal charts
rooted firmly
in the virgin
whom spring could
never rival
for our love
and tears.


these archaic forms
cannot last;
decrees are issued
by the hour,
condemn what is
amid glass and
polished steel;
but your country virtue,
no less conspicuous,
is not so quickly
diffused through me
through mine
this inheritance
guides us through
guideless times.

John S. Hatcher, A Sense of History, pp. 99-101

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