Friday, September 10, 2010

The Twenty Minute Before Midnight Man - By Ronald Rabenold

This is John Parker who passed away earlier this year.  An austere, great man with humble dirt-floor, coal-patch town roots.  He is not the Twenty Before Man, but he'd agree.  You lived well Uncle John.

The Twenty Before Midnight Man:

The hour did not divide them in a biblical brother way.

Rather, it was an artificial line that began to diffuse their identities:

Born exactly twenty minutes before midnight, the other twenty minutes after,

The dates would become the preoccupation

That would outlive them all.

He awoke from a deep nap, saying “…my angel…my angel…my darling angel.”

When she was gone, he set to the clouds, “This is the story of my life,”

Though he didn’t feel a thing.

He recalled the boy, who pierced his stomach with the pencil tip,

It remained at two o’clock upon his naval,

Buried beneath thirty years of layered skin.

Later he caused a second piercing, this time to himself,

Onto his own stomach, with his father’s own revolver.

The lead introduced his guts to the light, heat, and dust of the outside August world.

The Twenty Before Midnight man went back there again,

To the place of dusty shale, a path of Staghorn sumac, between river and canal.

He knew it by how it tested his patience,

The bluegills and the day of countless casts.

He never asked, “When is it enough?”

Though years later he wondered why he had

Foraged for grubs in the decayed logs of this channel,

Reaching it again, thinking, “This place has changed.”

This is the spot of Heath’s raft of unraveled logs.

It was said, when his face emerged, pulled up from this very water

That it still bared the smile of a boy in the midst of a summer day.

Gone, never hearing Gabo say, “A fear of death is the ember of happiness.”

That was the story of his life.

He did wonder how it occurred this way.

How he was given more time to ponder their deaths,

Than they had been given life to live.

When he crossed the line from twilight gray onto the rest fantastic,

He found his humility divided from fear, his consequence from obligation,

Unsettled as the clouds separating the gray from the blue,

He had not thought to thank them for the contrast.

He did not realize the covers coming down to meet the sheets meant

Her legs were gone, forever, from their bed.

He did not realize all the time he spent on longing,

Awaiting the arrival of the sensation

That would bring the smile

That would finally part his lips.

Ronald Rabenold – February 7, 2010 (Revised September 6, 2010)


  1. Ronald,

    It is cloudy here, quiet this morning, and Ports of Call is haunting the background from my blog. Your story fits that mood and I'm disturbed, in a good way, with so many levels of meaning and thoughts. I need writing like this to prod me from the many times my writing is shallow or lacks weight. Words should matter, and these do. Thanks.

  2. Ronald, what a lovely tribute poem. Great gentleness, yet a strength to your words that make me want to read them several times over. Impressive. Love the photo! Thanks!

  3. It's good to hear from you again Kay...thanks for your kind words...And I'm glad to be reading your work again too...Keep it flowing...Ron