Jeff Bender

An Old Kind of Mad

Here we sit in the story room, the war one that finally bricked you into your tomb.
We heard the same lines commanding, demanding from the island Some-Where, 
whose sand walls rumbled and crumbled down into our tight-lipped stories. Yet, we held our ground as a captive audience of none.

First it was your legs that were too feeble, folded up and put away. We tried to retrieve them one by one. They were held captive in a wheelchair that yielded nothing but armed you to your lonesome teeth with nightie-nights with a bedside salute.

I knew your once-whistle so brilliantly airtight, like when you played greener golf or cleaned a scrimshaw pipe. And now, there’s no tune. Just tones from a blowhard that sound as if old got mad. A smokey, old kind of mad. And a mad kind of old, told, and retold. 

We are the sign-ins that hear. We are the sign-outs that shed our gear and sink lower each time we must go in, then re-hear one hundred versions of quicksand and Korean combats
The over and over of it, each hour, again pools overseas and drowns in one last stand on your vet hat.

It was on Wednesday, or at lunch where a table for four had a stroke, then a fall,
or never woke. One by one by one they outlived their own plans for dinner. That left me alone 
leaning on your ghost besides the table legs looking at “Empty Plates, Volume VIII,” in the series “How to be a Soldier and Fatherless.”

You pointed with a hard finger to each rule that worked in that century for you and bent them until they became for us a recipe for disaster. It was a room without a view
and a view without any room to breathe or move. We ate what we were served.

This was a one-armed conflict, a wounded lesson left under six feet of dirt where stories no longer make a sound, but chair wheels go round and round and then try to head south by southwest, near Some-Where.

We say goodbye to your hand that called the shots but no longer waves
back and forth and reloaded with another round of back and forth, and back and forth, and back and forth and back and forth and back and forth and back and forth and.

Jeff Bender is a writer/artist who writes about life and has a life that is about his art. While the two skills often intersect, both reflect a zeal for the spontaneous, the curious and most things that are breathing. Always supplementing his stories with constructions and collages, his artwork is held in collections both public and private, both regionally and internationally. He holds an MFA in printmaking from Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville and a BA in Art from the College of Wooster.

A Song for Jeff

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