Garden of Darkness
Me and Bobby Joe LaFontaine,
filled with fear and false bravado,
sneak out one night in Rider Parish,
meet at Main and Rue St. Joseph,
climb the fence around the garden,
jump and fall upon the soft earth,
watch the dancing spanish mosses
drag the oak boughs back and forward,
hear the groaning from the gravestones.
Is it wind or death complaining?
Now the moon, becoming frightened,
hides its face behind its fingers.
The darkness soon is all around us,
reaching out to grab our clothing,
scratching at our arms and shoulders,
the only sound our heavy breathing.
When we reach the Main Street entrance,
the gate of iron stands resolutely
locked and chained to keep the spirits
safe within their sanctuary.
Then we see the light behind us,
coming closer, yellow shimmer.
Is it juju, zombie priestess,
ruler of the sacred garden?
What face reflects behind the lantern?
Is it human, God please help us!
Shining bright as Roman Candles,
grasping at my shirt of sorrows,
the creature turns me in its talons.
For forty years I keep this memory
hidden in the dark recesses -
fear of death is worse than dying.
Remember how the old caretaker,
gaunt and toothless holds his lantern,
unlocks the gate and scolds us homeward.
Bobby Joe has joined the army,
leaves his bones in Southeast Asia.
I leave my soul in Rider Parish
to hide among the mossy gravestones..
Every year we meet at midnight,
climb the fence and freefall downward,
bring the dead an extra six-pack.
With backs against a mausoleum
we drink their health and sing salvation,
me and Bobby Joe LaFontaine.
He still wears his army helmet.
I still wear my hat of darkness.
Our souls remain within the garden.
The morning light will find us gone.
(First published in Mysteries - 2017)