A New Way

 

Intruder Alert by Philip Brent

Intruder Alert
by Philip Brent

Talk to me; foretell my future
Mired ‘neath murky clouds
Shades of black and gray
No more bright sun
Limns the shadow

What portends our pretense?
Is it more
Than happenstance?
Will we ever
Change the steps
Of our fell dance?

While peacocks preen
Clean each feather
Display their plumage
For each other
In descending twilight

*

In layered clothes of white
I brave the cold
Bitter winds abroad
Cap pulled tight
Below my ears
My gloves secured
See only whiteness
Blinding reflected light

I walk these steps from memory
Into the raging storm trudge
Wind buffeted
Slowly, I advance
Grudging each
Purloined step
Stolen by the gale
For every two I take
If I could raise my head
Look up
Would I still see stars
Or are they broken
Merely cancerous smudges
Windblown death

Talk to me; foretell my future
Mired ‘neath murky clouds

Still I must struggle
Toward my goal
My neighborhood
Market, black market
Wondering if my journey
Will yield reward
Stale bread, a carrot
Twice-boiled water
Safe to drink
So they claim
My trade goods
So meager
Yet all I have, have made
Crude figures
Poorly whittled
From pallet staves
With my sharp knife
Guarded closely
This blade, used
For cooking, shaving
And to fight

While peacocks preen
In descending twilight

Suddenly, a shape looms
On my left side
Where a shape, a shadow
Should not be
Staggering right
I stoop and huddle
Cover my face in
Snow-gloved hands
Never could I have
Dreamed this dismal
Future where
I squat and pray
Still unseen
I spread my fingers
Slowly, a mere crack
Gently move
My head, still
In sight, but
No other movement

I stand, inch quietly away
Stopping to watch
Until this looming
Shadow disappears
It starts snowing
Again, fine and icy
Wind-driven daggers
Slice me until
I turn aside
An alternate route
Which I want to take
Away from this unknown

Avoid unknown shadows, strangers
Source of dangers
Large or small
Can be the end of all

Repeating this childhood rhyme
Count myself lucky
Less fierce the wind
In this new way
A longer road, yet safer
Or so I think
Until I realize
Multiple shadows
Move toward me
On the run
So careless
By then
It is too late
Stopping, stock still
I spread my arms
Hands open and empty
Close my eyes, wait
For the end

The wind of doom rushes toward me
No end comes
Movement all around
My eyes snap open
Scavengers run past me
Near the back, one slows
“C’mon, man,” he cries
“Stationary transponder.
“Hurry!”
I shake my head
Knowing now
What I saw
Disgusted, he shoves
Past me, Knocking me
Off balance

“Suit yourself, fool,”
He says, then gone
Swallowed by
The misty vapor

Catching myself, bracing
My hand upon the wall
I straighten, struggle
Toward my goal
Onward, toward
My own destiny
Lost in thought, in weather
Surprised when
My market appears
Nondescript and derelict
Drawing no attention
I quickly scan the street
Reach for the hidden bell
Before I touch it
I hear, distant yet near
Automatic weapons fire
An explosion, faint screams
Of the wailing, walking dead

I pause a moment more
Then ring the bell
And no matter
My trip’s success
Or failure
I know I’ll find
A new way home

Avoid unknown shadows, strangers
Source of dangers
Large or small
Can be the end of all

 

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