Free will

What parts of me lie buried in unstoned ground
Dreams and fears alike leached out
Into the indifferent clay?

What parts of what I am pleased to call
My own invention come down
Through the ancient crossfire of nature and nurture
To the ultimate epi-me,
Striding vainly along memory’s boulevards
Grasping at the heart of things?

Isn’t that, too, some determinate of blood and soil?
Of circumstance stenciled onto a genetic landscape,
Long fixed, long before I thought to uncover it?

Go back far enough, and we are all progeny
Of blind, pointless chemical replication,
Some accident of electromechanical impulse
Upon a sludge.

Accused and convicted

They say the smell of fear
Can never be purged from that patrol car
Fear like a raging boil
Exploding into the roiling pus
Of rage, of naked rage.

Michael Brown lay dead in the street
The red, red wine of youth
Flowing into the gutter.

Accused and convicted,
Executed for the crime of being
Young, brown, and foolish.

It’s an old story.

That time with Jesus

So long ago,
I got to know him well,
Always reaching, always looking
For a reason to keep living,

Even knowing
How alone we all are,
How he lived inside his head
Where no one could see the struggles,
No one could know how wrong they got it,
How, even he, in the end,
Gave up hoping for it
To change somehow,
Went from telling us how
To simply asking why.

Well, it’s a fair question, that.
Only, there can never be
An answer, no matter
How hard we stare
At the universe, demanding.

The universe only stares back,
blankly.

Why had God forsaken him?

Why had he been so deluded
To think it would be different

From fear,
From loneliness,
From deception,
From illusion,
From cheap deliverance,
From intoxication,
From imagination?

Sitting and listening
To the sirens at night,
I imagine a million of them,
An endless stream of Jesuses
Asking the same question.

Why?

The word fire

“The word fire,” says Sensei,
“does not burn your lips.”
But say, Sensei, that the word fire
Burns your heart, the heat rising
Through your neck, and, yes,
Singeing your tongue on the way out?

What if the word eagle
Makes you feel like soaring,
All the while tethered to your
Earth-born dreams, that seem only to rise
Slowly?

Or the word dying, though it seems a lie,
Still feels dark and wet, not exactly cold,
But too thick for that?

I think, Sensei, that even your
Ancient schemes cannot touch
These depths.

Your finger points only to a place
Where the moon might have been

If you live long enough

If you live long enough, you will see them die.
Longer still, and they fall like spring snow.
There are those who say grief is all second-hand,
That we grieve for ourselves alone
When those too like us prove mortal.

I suppose, for the first fierce blow,
That’s true: we stumble forward, gut-shot,
All death and bewilderment;
But after that? After the long parade begins in earnest?

True, a kind of acceptance sinks in,
A not-quite numbness, a sedation,
A shaking of the head, “Why,
Just yesterday…”

But there are ghosts.
They follow us everywhere,
And in some unguarded moment, a grief descends
Pure and sweet, almost holy,
And wholly devoid of self.

In these moments
We cradle our memories like children,
And all we long for
Is one more touch.