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
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
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
Maybe that illusion
is what’s missing.