What’s Missing

Was it in the last place you looked,
that tall shelf

of obscure mementoes
laden with dust; or was it

in a flag’s ripple, obvious
but ephemeral; 

does it live in the wind
or in the fabric? It’s not there,

though. What is it, even? It feels like
what’s missing can’t be defined.

It should be a simple act 
to first identify what is missing,

explain where to find it,
then go and get it.

But something’s missing.
The news has been emptied;

each day seems paler,
no longer suffused with it.

It’s not joy. While that’s grown scant,
it still appears from moment to moment.

It’s not contentment;
some have plenty of that. They

hide behind it, show it off,
their coat of complacent arms.

If it has a name it might be
hope, or even the promise of hope,

but to call it that and declare it absent
is so cold; seems 

counterintuitive in such heat.
To say that hope’s gone missing

seems so nearsighted; can’t see it
right in front of you and the horizon

has grown shady
with smoke from guns and pyres.

Maybe it’s buried under rubble,
in pipeline trenches or mass graves,

and that’s why it seems elusive.
Maybe planting a telescope

in a sacred place
and using it to seek hope

while trampling
the site of a desecration

keeps us more ignorant
than wise, and that’s why hope

stands apart from us, hiding its face,
shaking its head. 

But what if what’s missing 
isn’t hope at all? Perhaps

what is disturbing the flag
is another thing

entirely. Perhaps what we can’t find
on the shelf where we keep our treasures

is integrity or righteous anger or
the will to move against

the evils of this time. We lend
no color to the world. We offer

no tangible proof of being 
a vital part to all of this.

We are in the last place
now. We are sitting on a high shelf

that’s ready to collapse
and the flag can’t save us.

We thought it could,
thought we could take it

for a blanket
and not a shroud,

though it has always 
been both.

Maybe that illusion
is what’s missing. 

About Tony Brown

A poet with a history in slam, lots of publications; my personal poetry and a little bit of daily life and opinions. Read the page called "About..." for the details. View all posts by Tony Brown

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