Daily Archives: December 2, 2016

Talking To My Children

Originally published in 2002 in my chapbook, “In Here Is Out There.”
Original title, “Talking To My Son About The Night.”

I have been thinking: 
what do I tell my children 
about Evil? Something wicked
in these days stirs,
and I cannot lie to them
and say shh, be still,
all is well and safe.

What shall I say to them of Evil?

I shall say:
it is a young man 
holding a knife to a lamp.
He adores how it separates 
skin from flesh, 
sinew from bone. 
He knows that when it is sharp enough
he can see the body’s coherence 
fleeing before its edge.

I shall say:
it is a woman 
leaning out of her window
on her elbows.
She sees something she does not favor. 
She slips out the back door
to carry her gossip to the slaughterhouse.
Someone there will take the news to the mechanics
who will set the wheels 
of the juggernaut
for maximum kill.

On her way home
she will wipe her face with a stolen liver.
Behind her she will leave a trail
of rumors and cartilage.

I shall say
it is a gaggle of children 
trapped in a dream
where they are made to suckle straws 
filled with their own blood.
They purse their pale lips, 
draw the red up, columns red rising,
red cresting in their mouths, 
falling red into their stomachs, 
such sharp nourishment, 
such a simple lesson:
living through this 
requires such a meal, 
a simple meal for a simple terror.
They have learned 
to devour themselves.

I shall say:
it is in and on all of us.  
We stink of rich meats, phobias, fires,
restless pride, secrecy. 
We inhabit our stereotypes, 
are slowed to the speed of custom, 
our houses crawl with indignation,
our ferocity is unbridled by logic, 
we create atomic proverbs to live by.

A man decides to force himself 
on the next random passer-by;
a boy slits an ancestor’s throat; 
we shake our heads, we cry out
for safety, we wait for it
and it never comes; instead comes 
the Evil: violent, clean cut, simple, fast;
and then, somehow,
we tell ourselves
that we can live forever 
this way.

And after that?
After that, what can I possibly say 
to them?

I will say to them:
children, it is slander 
to speak of this life
and only note the Evil.

I will say to them:
children, my children, 
look at the stars.

I will say to them:
children, my children,
whenever you despair
of this world, take comfort in the night:
go out, lie back, and look at the stars.

I will say yes, there is always horror afoot
by day and by night,
but always, always, we have the stars,

and if ever you despair,  
look up at those hints 
of the hoped-for forever
and tell yourself:

I am a star, 
and I do not
shine alone.


You laugh at me, say it’s not 
the apocalypse, say it’s not good 
that I should be this worried.

I know it’s not the apocalypse. 
That’s your word. I have my own word 
for this. I call it the Unveiling —

which is, by the way, what your word
originally meant. You’ve turned the thought
of secrets revealed into the end of the world

and I think that’s right for you, but not for me,
and not for so many of us who see this world
the way we always have, though now

your secrets are out in the open and 
that might indeed be the end of your world
and the beginning of ours. It’s going 

to hurt like childbirth. It’s going to be
soaked in blood.  It might take a long time
but we know that your future is in apocalypse

as ours is in unveiling. Revealed:
in coming years you will be in eclipse
and we will be in ascent. Revealed:

that you are bold today means little
to those who have always known
what you hid from yourself. Revealed:

what’s coming at us today
is a hard kick from a frantic leg
on a dying beast.  Revealed:

we know you better
than you have allowed yourself
to know. Revealed, unveiled, exposed:

your backlash is just the same old violence
it ever was, only grown more savage because
it knows how short its time truly is. 

A Stopped Clock

Like a stopped clock,
I’m correct only at intervals.

If I were pressed to say when, I’d say
I stopped at 41 and a few months.

Old enough to claim full rights 
to grown-up, young enough

to pass for less than that
at select moments,

at least in my head.
Now, years later, I’m old enough

to claim old, young enough
to be dismayed that most everyone

agrees with me, not quite old enough
to be past all care for others’ perceptions.

I look forward to one more moment
of complete synchronization

when this stopped clock will one more time
tell it like it is, and then

most likely will be discarded,
or with any luck be shunted into a dusty box

of broken things with sentimental value,
things no one can quite bring themselves to toss.