So long ago

A poem written six years ago.

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

How swiftly came the killing season

This first appeared in Exileschild 11/22/16. Strange how poetry adapts to its context.

How swiftly came the killing season
swept in from hinterlands
just when we had remarked upon
the sameness of it all.

How soon the must-not-be-named
became quotidian.
Weren’t we standing there,
thinking how wise it was

to not raise a ruckus
about minor disturbances,
how preferable to simply
turn our backs to the foul wind?

What good will be our platitudes
tomorrow?

Once I saw Ozymandias

There, in a glass case
in the Cairo Museum
lay Rameses II, who imagined
that all who looked upon
his works would despair.

Desiccated, a shrunken pith
of a man, he reminded me
of nothing else but
the last slab of salted cod
at the closing of the market,
unsold.

Despair, indeed, my king,
but not the way you imagined.

The death of Bernardo

I remember a moment in fifth grade,
when it was announced
that Sister Bernardo,
who taught seventh grade,
had died.

There was this brief
eruption of joy that
we would not, ever,
have to endure
her legendary cruelty.
It was an utterly spontaneous, and
therefore uncontrollable, eruption
which collapsed almost
immediately into despair.

There stood, at the head
of the classroom,
Sister Mary Henry,
in all her indominable
forbiddenness, and we knew
that she had recorded the reaction
of each and every child
in her prodigious
and never-failing memory.

Red, red rain

There was a June when it rained
As it rained every June
Anyone could remember
All day, every day, every night

A rain so fine you could breathe it
So swollen you could drown
In the tall grass never knowing
Why, eyes wide and mouth agape

That June as wet inside as out
The earth heaved upward
As the rain kept falling
The sky without warning red as blood

I remember now, a voice was calling
“Come back through the long grass,
Come back through the red, red rain.”
But the red rain was you.