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The Armless Ambidextrian

I. The Love of Minds The volume on the desk, The one not claimed by dust or burned By light, will follow her to bed tonight. Its pages will be turned and smothered, Each in turn, so as not to rouse in jealousy The one towards the other. Its spine, Induced to weariness, will rest upon her pillow With the light brown curls of hair Bathing themselves in the glow Of moonlight. She holds the cover to her breasts And dreams of Paris in the spring. ("My darling, you are such a simple, such a splendid thing...") A stranger in the office where she works Is familiar with the phrases and vernacular, so she intends To learn from him, if not, then from a book. With knowledge there is wisdom And with wisdom there is might. Perhaps the three of us could interest you In a friendly game of cards. You may wager what you like Or none at all, but be prepared To spend the night. The children in the schoolyard Playing football, do not yet fully realize That there is very little sport in violence; Very little sport, Or none at all. II. The Wiser Man Has Spoken "The best years of my life were spent Performing someone else's chores, Dusting the picture frames or opening the door For strangers sharing tea, all of them quite pleasant, Wearing pleated trousers." These fingers, held against your wrist, Have monitored the flow of blood, The flow of time. These eyes have chosen blindness, Looking away towards the garden Where the roses set the laws and make the rules. These ears ignored the whispers and the threats, Hearing only the sounds of music in the ballroom, Your daughters dancing with the gentleman from Germany. "Traffic seldom passes my way. When night falls, I can hear it in the distance If only for an instant, While I dream." III. I Heard the Mermaids Singing Early in the morning, Before the sun resumes bathing The earth in shadow, rinsing The streaks of moonlight from its skin, wiping The stars from your eyes, I heard the mermaids singing, each to each. I heard the mermaids singing... The sidewalk shouts The street lamp sings a melody Familiar to your ear, did you hear The woman calling from the doorway as you passed? (The candor of her garments caught your eye.) Regard her from a distance, If she speaks, do not reply. Tomorrow, you'll be thankful that you've listened. Tomorrow's list of obvious affairs Was written on the table With the matching set of chairs, Revised and re-prepared Without my knowledge or consent. When I was young I often went With Lucy to the fair. We dined At eight, then met the others there, Beneath the lights. "Please sing that song again my darling girl, Please sing that song again." The wounded hunter Waited calmly as she read The latest poll, The Burial of the Dead, And something Sylvia had said: "Please taste this pastry dear And tell me what you think, I intend To serve it to the guests this afternoon With tea. Don't roll your eyes at me! I want to leave them with a fine impression, So please cooperate my dear, If not for you, at least for me." Another evening exposed, His window opened to the world. "Please sing that song again my darling girl, Please sing that song again." A sentimental tune Played with purpose on a summer afternoon, Foretells the fate of August And recalls the ghosts of June. You have your youth; you have your health, The company of friends. (I hope the story does not end on such a sour note.) Take down this stranger's address And remember it by rote. Awaken in the morning Wash your face and read the Times, Your seldom opened blinds Preserve discretion as you dress. Rise up, Beethoven's blessing rests upon your shoulder, The world awaits you just beyond the door. Destruction or deliverance, You dream of something more; While voices chase the shadows to the floor. IV. The Paralytic's Plight Tomorrow's lips are smiling, Smiling at the audience held captive at its feet Waiting for the bells to ring. The past is slowly dying. The fantasies grow dull, The memories obscure and hard to trace; All of them forgotten, All but one. Let us stand as one and sing with untrained voices. Shall I accept this gift Of life, the curse of death Removed from my head? Dwelling in a waterless region I have not eaten for the famine, Or asked because of reason, Or slept because of dreams. "I am weary of the garden", said the rose, "The color of my eyes, the shape of my nose, And the antiquated fashion of my clothes." "Please sing that song again my darling girl, Please sing that song again." And thus, You are acquainted with the paralytic's plight. He listens to the stories, To the fables read at night, While the rest spin strands of moonlight Round their fingers. His discontentment lingers like a summer afternoon, The chorus of a sentimental tune. Let us stand as one and sing with untrained voices. Copyright © 1994-2018 by Benjamin Toney. All rights reserved. Previously published 1995-96 in Central High School's annual The Tempest, under pseudonym. Image credit: "Creative's Rising" by Artist Sharon Lyn Stackpole | via

Copyright © | Year Posted 2018

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Date: 5/30/2018 12:20:00 PM
Benjamin, I admit the title of this extraordinarily fascinating piece piqued my interest, but almost as soon as I began reading the body, I was thoroughly entranced. I love your very subtle rhyming and gentle flow of lines...and such beautiful and meaningful phrases..."very little sport in violence"...and so many others. I blush to say I am often a "lazy" reader, and will pass up a longer piece such as this one. But today I am so glad I didn't. A really excellent read.
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Benjamin Toney
Date: 5/30/2018 11:10:00 PM
I'm so happy you enjoyed it, Jim. Thank you for your encouragement.