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TROPIC OF OCTOBER      

The last of the roses
there by the low wall
October's noon-squint sun
still warms awhile,
is going to wrack and ruin.
Death's slow fire licks the petals
til one rises and another falls —
ashes to breath to earth to light.

    "Soon come," is all she'll say
    when Jim asks for the morning mail
    in another October, another city.
    It is Kingston, and death
    is no place and everywhere;
    dogs chivvy it through the night
    and the air reeks of oleander.
October sleeps with itself in the north
until there's no day left.
November, nearly stillborn,
lies cold as a slug in a jar lid
full of beer. On my suburban block
"Ollie, ollie, oxen free!"
rings off the windows and children come
like wraiths from the leaf piles.

    Over the mountain in the dark
    and the smell of burning cane
    we ride in a red Ford truck,
    in an orange light that wavers
    on the undersides of clouds.
    "Soon come"
    to nowhere, some bad end,
    tipped over in a ditch
    by Shooter's Hill.
    But no. Soon come, not home,
    but like the mail at morning
    somehow fixed to this world's
    cheek again, repetitious as the bird
    that spoke one note all night
    from different trees. We come
    with the starting up of trucks,
    their day-long growl up Constant Spring.
    Next time, more rum and water
    before leaving Mandeville. Or none.

Elm leaves roar up —
bone fires. The sky fills
with ashes not of martyred saints
but pages of the morning news.
There is neither ending or beginning.
Soon come. Only now.

      — Scott Murphy


Hear Scott Murphy read 'Tropic of October'