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?

Dark natter

We’ve lost the will to listen,
instead expressing and expressing
without end, without impression
as if we were generators and not motors,

as if beams of reality flowed
brainless and wantless
toward – what? Tomorrow?
There is no tomorrow,

today only, in a false succession
of todays. How can there be
expression, alone and only?
There must first be an emptiness,

gradually filled with the stuff of galaxies,
or more remote still, of giant gas clouds
or invisible matter, so dark.

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.

Blood line

As luck would have it
I was born who I am,
propelled into wonder
and deep disturbance,

pushed from behind
by fear and tedium,
compelled by curiosity
to delve and burrow.

Shall I say my fate
has formed me,
or have I moved through Earth
not spellbound, but spellbinding?

No use complaining, no
point in shallow grievance.
Fate works not by force
but seduction.

The poet as scold

I do read your work, telling me
to be a decent sort, which politician
to love, which to despise,
how one kind of suffering
is better than another, or one
rude remark worse than another.
The ponderance presses relentlessly,
huge pendulous images of right thinking,
until I no longer feel I own my own
uncertainty, that my heart can so much as
break without first checking your litany.
Father, forgive me, for I have sinned.
Now I must be on my way or miss
the chance to do it again.