The Summer that Never Was
1. The Summer in Early Spring to the memory of Martin Luther King, Jr. The King is dead. The summer came in early spring this year. The King is dead. How timeless do we have to be to be able to tell one another the time of day? The King is dead. The morning glories, which have not yet arrived, are bursting with life, but the King is dead. Who would have dreamed on an April day bursting with life of the dream exploding in his dreaming head? The King is dead. The morning glories, which have not yet arrived bursting with life and dying, are as blue as the sky has to be to be heaven, but the King is dead. The whole world wept last night. The King was dead. The whole world is blue today. The King is dead. How can we tell, on this summer day bursting and in early spring, the time of year when the King is dead? How can there be, in such a time, on such a day, the thought of spring or summer? The King is dead. Heaven today is to be able to tell one another, not the time of year, but the time of day. For the King is dead. May the seeds of the heavenly blue morning glories survive. Will the King and his dream of a heavenly day, in the summer that never was, arrive? Is the King alive? What is the color of sorrow? 2. The Summer that Only is near Macon, Missouri This is Still-Hildreth, a private hospital going to seed. When I arrived in August, in the dark, after four months of dead-white nights, I saw few patients; the rest were gone or too far gone to go. What greeted me was Still-Hildreth, a hospital gone or going to seed. I greeted it as one who may or may not stay. The summer that is is worse than uninspired. I sit alone in a cell-sized room, wondering what I desired, desire; or walk around unsure and more than tired of no firm ground— the future as the present blown apart—not least of all the small and inward peace that has almost expired. Still-Hildreth, whose grounds are pleasant for strolling, being large and serene, has a short, straight driveway that circles in front of the entrance doors and meanders in back around an untidy pond; there, wildflowers, especially the wild carrot, are everywhere. Today I saw from the mute concert room the useless tennis courts, the lawn around well groomed and green. Beyond are picnic tables, benches, and folding chairs, deserted now, and one small table where I come to write, to find some peace. The summer has never been like this before, or not for me, so personal, impersonal a war. Who can escape, turned outside in, the hawk within and the unknown predator? whose discipline is death, whose love must be a love of hatred, crud, greed, blood, and the maimed lives and loves that cry: No more. Still-Hildreth, a block of bricks that looks like nothing that could ever go to seed, once an academy for the glory of war with a still splendid staircase made curious with iron tendrils and stone trefoil forms like clover leaves without the luck and rich with rails of brass and flowerlike brass motifs is dying from end to end of unused massive space. The summer that only was has gone to seed, whether or not Still-Hildreth goes, whether it meets my need, which is to know what I should do and how then to proceed. I wonder why when something has been shot to hell, it is my hell as well. Though clearly it cannot be, it is indeed. 3.The Indian Pipe to the memory of Robert F. Kennedy St. Francis, all the little flowers are dead. Autumn has come. The summer that never was has somehow fled. The tiny temple bells, their rich, greathearted leaves, blood-red, the heartfelt knells that told our fears are dumb; spring beauties, red and gold, are cold, and every tender stalk has lost its head. Where are June’s copious beds? Can the full season, just rose, be denied? stripped of their flowers, their due rose hours, war-torn, dead-white where something died? What is this horn of death-filled autumn reds? June’s gentle first increase, our budding peace, whose thorny presence left only his own seed, burst with his shattered head bright red, while the hell-blooms of war, flesh roses that explode and bleed, are as before. Speak of untimely dead, Francis, untoward silence, all the abhorred unnatural voids, the blank pages, missed connections, the horde of things gone rank too soon, the seeds that never thrived deprived by chance—of how much cannot be restored. Speak of our festered ghettos; our lily-white suburbs; luxurious estates, their filigree, but iron bars on windows, their high rails, spikes on posts and gates, —all barricades—a disguised incivility. Speak of the abyss and why we have come to this: the bloom of our white mushroom, like an enormous, spreading saprophyte, our ghostly Indian pipe, feeding on death, not light.