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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

No News Today - Guest Post - Robert Kloss

From The Alligators of Abraham

And when the war was at its lowest, Abraham was visited by the face of the Lord in the night. Remember now this man Abraham, alongside his wife, and how she snored while he lay awake watching the shadows fold and unfold upon the ceiling. Remember how the Lord, great and nameless in all, called to him in the voice of shadows upon the ceiling: “This war of yours,” the Lord spoke, “calls for the blood of a son. Let the red stream flow.” And how sorrowful became this man Abraham, how his every gaze followed the figure of his boy, Willie, this boy he loved more than his very soul, this boy Willie and the war noises he made unto his lead soldiers, and there Abraham stood in his top hat, and there Abraham said unto the boy, “This union shall not perish from the earth.”

Remember this boy on the front page of the papers, his face cocked to the side and his half-smile, his coal black hair, his lace frills and velvet jackets, dead of what they officially called a “bilious fever.” Remember now this boy who raced goats along the capital lawn with his brother. Remember now this boy of your age and height and hair color, dead in the morning. Remember how the official release spoke of his emaciated body wrung dry. Remember this boy who sought to execute his play soldiers until his father pardoned them by official letter. Remember now this boy, dead in his bed-clothes, and how Abraham wept and murmured through the day, “You were too good for this earth, Willie my boy, it is a hard, hard thing to have you die for this cause.”

And how all the world seemed born into wailing and the tolling of church bells and twenty-one gun salutes, how Mary Todd in her black gowns and gauze pressed her nose to the windows overlooking the lawns and the roads, and how she said, “Where are they? Why aren’t they here to pay their respects?”

Remember those days were the days of caskets, and now Willie’s was but one of these.

Remember  how  Abraham’s figure  stooped over Willie’s, the slow melt of ice along the floor boards sopping into the Persian rug, Abraham’s face buried in his hands, how he attended not to his papers, his war. And  how Abraham paced, moaning, before the boy’s casket. How he slept before his son, his great figure curled, his legs drawn up and how his white stockings and whiter flesh shown beneath his black trousers, and when he sat awake all your valley knew the sound of his pitched weeping. And in the still midnight how Abraham said unto his wife, “I need a glass of water” and instead journeyed to the body of his son on display and laid kisses upon that once sweet brow, and how he sought to remove the silver dollars from the boy’s lids, whispering, “Please, please my boy, oh my boy, my heart—” Remember how servants found Abraham asleep and draped over Willie’s casket, the boy’s jacket sodden with Abraham’s tears, and Abraham wept for what he called “his guilt,” and so it was said Abraham cleansed and cleansed until the blood dripped from his rubbed-red hands.

And now Abraham and his youngest son Tad curled into bed with each other, and Abraham whispered stories until this tender lad dozed. And Abraham excused himself from cabinet meetings for his weeping, for his dazed expression, his strange wandering mind, and he called out “Quiet down now Willie” or “Play with your carriages elsewhere lad,” and when his sobs were heard by those he trusted most, these said unto each other, “We may need a new president.”

Remember how Abraham twice exhumed Willie, stood by while government workers shoveled free and mounded the soil. How he fell upon the casket raised above the soil. How he fell upon the figure of his boy once the crowbar pried free the lid, the dust and gases of the grave and all others fell to coughing and gagging while Abraham held tight the disassembling body of his son, the body grown to dust, to soil, the body burrowed through and rotten, the body of hair grown long and tangled, the body of fingernails, of gases. This body of the boy he kissed now, this body he wept upon, this body ever of his boy, this body ever of his body.

And it was said Mary Todd would not rise from bed for the death of Willie, and it was said Abraham crouched by her catatonic figure and fed her soup by prying her gray lips open with one hand and sliding the spoon in with his other, and he hummed the tunes he knew she had loved to hear Willie sing “Yankee Doodle” and “the Camptown Ladies” and Abraham said finally, “Mother, you must pull together or you see that white building across the way?” and he gestured to the hospital across the street. “Mother, we will have to send you there. And my heart will be too lonesome to bear.”

Robert Kloss is the author of How the Days of Love & Diphtheria and The Alligators of Abraham. He is found at robert-kloss.com.