and then there were none
And Then There Were None
When I was young
we learned how the west was won
singing the Ten Little Indians song
one little two little three little Indians
and so on, each verse eliminating one
by the pox, the railroad, and the gun.
Ten little, nine little, eight little Indians.
And then there were none.
Elimination games are fun–
synecdochical anarchy and chaos–
see them run! I once watched a game
of Musical Chairs performed by the residents
of the Elmwood Jewish Retirement Home.
Bubbes and Pops raced in a circle,
the chairs diminishing each time by one,
with a shriek; and then there were none.
At twenty I moved to Big Town
and was the friend of three little bears
and we sat smoking and laughing
till the wine and cigarettes were done.
This is how the game was played,
how a hundred bottles of beer
on the wall became one, when my bears
began to sing Ring Around the Rosie.
A pocket full of posies
Ashes ashes we all fall down!
And when it was over there were none.
It makes you aware of attrition, the war
of tradition, like the game of Duck Duck Goose
I played at Joanne Lowitz’s 15th birthday
in the dark of the playground where 8 drunk girls
and I ran screaming around the wet grass:
You’re it! Falling face forward, making out
on the curved brick wall in the green glowing light,
gonna run-run run run run one by one we lose
and when we are done there are none.
At the school next door they don’t sing
Ten Little Indians anymore, they don’t sing at all
this fall. The kids only ask to be together
but they must not run. Duck Duck Goose,
Ring Around the Rosie are too close for a distant day.
After recess they line up quietly apart and follow
their sober teacher to a circle of chairs in the sun
beneath the flags where they sit with the still
inscrutable eyes of masked strangers, their laugh
or grimace, concealed by the cloth, is gone
and when they are done, one by one they go.
And then there are none. The flag flaps alone.
Cherokee, Sioux and Cayuga.