George Ellison

The View from the Graveyard Overlooking Bryson City  

By way of prelude the whistle of the
excursion train on the far side of the river
shrieked three times. From where I stood in
the graveyard on the knoll overlooking town
I could see tourists waving from their windows
the way travelers never do when departing on
a train that’s really going somewhere.

It was an eventful afternoon.
From my vantage point I watched a dog
hike his leg and piss on the Federal Building wall.
A hiker came out of Bojangles and gave him a biscuit.
He smiled the way dogs do as he watched her walk away.
Then he yawned … wheeled counterclockwise as if chasing
his tail … and lay down all curled up in the sun by his wall.

Twenty-six pigeons arose from under
the lower bridge where they roost and
circled the knoll on flexed wings the way
pigeons do before settling one by one on the
gold copula atop the old courthouse where the
clock is always reliably an hour ahead or behind  
depending on the season.

The blue-green wind descended from high country and skimmed
over the Tuckaseigee gathering moisture before passing through
the oak grove on the knoll where each tree stood attentive with
branches outspread over graves that settled and intermingled
generations ago. Magnetized by water from the river their
leaves glowed as they did when the oracular priestesses
at Dodona first sang prophesy of the ever after.

A philosopher accused the ladies at Dodona of madness.
And there's no doubt they were habitually spellbound.
Then a poet accused them of consorting with priests
who didn't wash their feet and slept on the ground.
They laughed and invited the boys to the party.
Plato declined but Homer came and got drunk
and helped with something they were writing.

You’ll have to listen closely but if you do
so with an open heart you’ll hear the words
they wrote … while drinking wine with
Homer at Dodona in a scrubby corner
of ancient Greece … murmuring in
the leaves above your head where-
ever you happen to be.

You are waiting for the next vision?
Hold my hand and listen to the wind.
You are seeking the long way home?
If so you will journey across broad
water into lands where nothing will
be as it seems & you will perish if
you fail to keep your wits about
you and practice indifference.

Hold my hand and listen as close
as you can to what I have to say.
Your journey will be negated and
your return home will be empty
unless you remember to

             Stay true
           to the dreams
          of your youth.

A blue jay screaming “Thief!” brought me back to earth.
I could see the stone angel on the other side of the knoll but
that’s another story … I didn’t feel like talking with her …
the priestesses at Dodona pre-dated angels by hundreds of
years and are a lot more fun. I never heard that Homer ever
saw even one angel or hung out with them in his spare time.
The title is appropriated … with prior notice … from Kathryn
Kirkpatrick’s  “Natal Chart” wherein the poetess in a huff
threatens to go “back to the garden / to sit naked with Blake,
/ waiting for the next vision.” Blake knew a lot about both
visions and angels having at 10 years of age encountered his
first ones at Peckham Rye in south London. It was a tree full
of angels with “bright angelic wings bespangling every bough
like stars.” Plato would have judged Blake mad, too, and no
one denied he was also habitually spellbound … and oracular.

I see that the train is still bound on its journey
to nowhere … the pigeons have retired to their
roost under the bridge … the dog is sound asleep
by his wall …  the oak leaves are silent … and the
clock in the dome of the old courthouse overlooking
town says it’s either going on or past time to go home.

 Elizabeth Ellison

Blue Jay

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