If you were a professional killer
do you think you’d imagine days without killing?
Vacations where you wouldn’t shed blood,
holidays where the poisons would stay
locked away in the customary cabinet?
Refusals to sharpen the kitchen knives
because hey, you thought this was your day off?
Because you are not a professional killer
I bet you think they think about killing
all the time. I bet you think they think
about the wash of blood into the street
after a hit, how neck skin feels taut
under their hands. I bet you think
it’s a different universe from that side
of the equation. Then I bet you shake off
all the thought of aberrant killing
and vote for President,
or grumble at the thought of protests
against cops who, after all, are just
doing their jobs, who lock up their guns
when they get home,
who bounce their innocent kids
on their aching laborer’s knees.
Everything is horrible
except for these apples
and these lilacs. Except for
the open eyes of this doe
who died by the side of the road
not long ago, eyes that still look
darkly alive for the moment.
Everything is terrible
except for the wind
and the song I hear coming
from the house next door
that’s being sung by a woman
a cappella, in Spanish I think,
although the wind
is bending her syllables
and they could be in a tongue
I don’t understand
that is moving me to tears.
Everything is lost
except the memory
of how it’s always been like this
and there have still been apples
and lilacs, and
in death there has also been beauty,
and there have always been songs
to puzzle the ear and churn the air
regardless of horror and terror
and in spite of having no way
to translate happiness to all at once.
Nothing is minimized
by being startled into awareness
of what is possible
beyond the worst we can be and do.