der alte mennonit
the old mennonite sits on a black
porch with white trim. his hat, his
suit, his shoes, are black.
his shirt is white. he
rocks his chair, taps his toes, remembers
the verdant hymns of spring.
he has nearly fallen asleep, into
night streaked with morning glory.
the earth turns, seven nights broken
by seven sundays. he
chuckles softly, recalling a low german
joke, black humour, white laughter.
an old mennonite, sitting on a porch, nearly
dozing, at the edge of a black field with
white furrows. beyond the field,
a white church with a narrow black door.
beyond the church, white dust
from black wheels. the old mennonite
is a black and white photograph.
or, possibly, a camera oscura, and he
smiles, rocking, in an old
technology the world will not
recognize. he has white
hair, black wrinkles. he knows
a black devil and a white god.
on the day of judgement,
jehovah will step from roiling
cloud, trumpet of wrath,
robe of mercy. and
written, sacred, exact, black
words upon white pages. the
old mennonite's shirt is washed clean
as fresh snow, against his suit
not a hint of grey. his wife's
quilt sways on the clothesline.
it is a rainbow, promise of god.
and promises broken, he has
endured the shadow of exile, all things
leave, he is leaving, he breathes
slowly, rubs his beard, his wife
takes his hand. if he
goes with her, he will die
© Robert Martens