September 9, 2019

The Mechanics of Melancholy: Engaging Poetry by Rick Ratliff

The Mechanics of Melancholy: Engaging Poetry by Rick Ratliff
Dark hallways 
Long hallway, doors on either side 
Like the departure platform at a rail station. 
No eye contact, everyone looking down, 
Shuffling along the bland grey floor. 
Away from the new arrivals  
Lighting is always dimmed like perpetual twilight   
And darkness creeps out of some doors like a black fog 
We come to say goodbye to those who no longer hear, 
And who stare blankly at the ceiling: 
While we are looking at the floor. 
Departure time is slowly approaching,  
Breathing is mechanical like worn breaks 
And the smell, the odor that's hard to describe--  
Body odor with musty deodorant  
Exhalation is pungent. 
No talking now  
It goes quiet at departure  
As we silently stand in ovation as we exit 

She's not you — yet, neither are you, (anymore) 
You would like her; I think. 
Flaxen hair (like yours)   
And I trust all the understanding  
A widow has of memories and loss.            
That helps, as I am daily learning  
To be the reluctant guardian of your memories. 
   There was light in those eyes; I miss that 
   momentary parting of invisible curtains. 
Feeling sorry for myself 
Angry at you for fading 
It’s a melancholy she lifts away     
I enjoy the softness of her coy friendship 
She walks across the room  
Click clack click clack click clack 
Heels announce her arrival                                 
Like reveille played on rhythm sticks 
I lift my head and softly smile 
  She knows who I am 
  Are these guilty thoughts? 
Yet a lost melody starts in my head                            
Just trying to get out 
Not the sonata she espoused 
Yet not quite a duet                   
Can't seem to quite hold on to it  
There's some emotion I can feel  
Is it love or sorrow, I don't know 
If I played the piano it would be jazz  
Lots of aching sad notes interspersed with   
A riff of high pinging reflective notes 
As the bass softly throbs in the background  
Classical romantic with improvisation: an unworkable chimera  
Structured organization with freelance exploration 
Her faith and my folly: how do I play these notes,        
Having foolishly created a composition that can't exist 
Father’s Shave 
I’ll finish shaving and do my father’s stubble 
Used a new toothbrush and combed his hair 
Boy, I need to set an appointment with Dianna, 
She has always cut my hair. 
Set out clean underwear and socks 
He likes those funny colored ones 
Pull my slacks on; pick a sweater 
Now help him down the stairs  
I’ll get his meds and do my inhalers  
He likes to read the news at the kitchen table 
I’ll microwave some breakfast  
It’s easy and quick  
And this afternoon we both are ready 
To watch some sports on television  
Then take a nap. 
We will sit in the same chair. 


Richard L Ratliff is a baby boomer, born and raised in Indianapolis, Indiana. His Midwest ties have built the foundation and setting for his poetry. He is a Purdue University graduate with two years of engineering turned into a degree in English Literature. All of these eclectic combinations have given him a career as a boiler and combustion expert and poet. He has over two dozen published poems and three books on Amazon


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