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,

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.


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

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.

Drake’s drum, by Henry Newbolt

Poetic lineages: in honor of the D-Day landing, for all those 10,000 mile stares since time immemorial.

Drake he’s in his hammock an’ a thousand mile away,
(Capten, art tha sleepin’ there below?)
Slung atween the round shot in Nombre Dios Bay,
An’ dreamin’ arl the time o’ Plymouth Hoe.
Yarnder lumes the island, yarnder lie the ships,
Wi’ sailor lads a-dancin’ heel-an’-toe,
An’ the shore-lights flashin’, an’ the night-tide dashin’
He sees et arl so plainly as he saw et long ago.

Drake he was a Devon man, an’ ruled the Devon seas,
(Capten, art tha sleepin’ there below?),
Rovin’ tho’ his death fell, he went wi’ heart at ease,
An’ dreamin’ arl the time o’ Plymouth Hoe,
“Take my drum to England, hang et by the shore,
Strike et when your powder’s runnin’ low;
If the Dons sight Devon, I’ll quit the port o’ Heaven,
An’ drum them up the Channel as we drummed them long ago.”

Drake he’s in his hammock till the great Armadas come,
(Capten, art tha sleepin’ there below?),
Slung atween the round shot, listenin’ for the drum,
An’ dreamin’ arl the time o’ Plymouth Hoe.
Call him on the deep sea, call him up the Sound,
Call him when ye sail to meet the foe;
Where the old trade’s plyin’ an’ the old flag flyin’,
They shall find him, ware an’ wakin’, as they found him long ago.


Some songs are best as background:
Words unheard, rhythm only, harmony guessed,
Like a stray aroma, too vague to catch a grip
On a past long gone,
Like hawk-baiting wrens still thrashing
After the raptors have all gone home.

All the best birds will eat carrion, even prefer it
Leavened and tenderized, not like the fierce will
To hang together you get from raw muscle
Newly riven from the bone, still hoping
For a quickened heart to bring new blood,
Still pushing back at beak and claw.

I try to imagine the silent throat,
Its alarm stilled forever.