Into excruciating detail we go.
We approach any fire focused on the embers at the edge.
We can describe the craquelure of each coal.
We can say whatever we want of shades and gradations
as long as we don’t speak of how close we are to being consumed.
Into excruciating detail we go.
We see haze and make up numbers to explain its depth.
We see smoke and metaphor it as dragon, as mushroom, as column.
We can say whatever we want of thickness and color and height
as long as we don’t choke on the constant approach of disaster.
Into excruciating detail we go.
We smell every singe on each hair currently on fire.
We speak of sweet and sour and acrid and my God, no words.
We can say whatever we want about the length of any given flame
as long as we ignore how bright and how hot we have become.
Start the day by greeting
all the creatures in the house: the people, cats,
ferret, fish; the ones in the walls
and the ones in the cracks;
the ones who come out at night
and the ones who sometimes scurry past
at daybreak; the ones we do not even know
are there who would chill us into screaming
if we could see them.
This day brings so much to deal with.
Every day brings so much to deal with.
Start with acknowledgement of all the good and terror
that lives within our walls. Take that as your banner
when facing the burning world beyond them.
Birds don’t sing
for freedom they already have.
for what they desire.
Imprison someone long enough
and they will learn to sing.
Prisoners who can hear birds
will offer cage songs in response.
Any prisoner who learns
how to sing cage songs
will eventually learn
how to make them beautiful.
The warden wants to keep them
from being free.
They will take
the cage songs from the singers,
sell them to the world,
call them freedom songs.
All those freedom songs began
as cage songs rising
in the throats of those
who have been locked down.
Listen to them, the warden says.
Listen to them singing like birds.
The warden might be telling the truth
but you would have to ask a prisoner
to be certain, and no one
wants that to happen. After all
your own chains
might be at risk.
You might feel
a powerful need to sing.
Most mornings —
hell, every morning —
are for staring straight up
at those dots
stuck like pinholes
into the clouds, dots
growing larger against
the once-blessed sky.
Waiting all day
and long into the night,
shielding ourselves from
all those shoes
I keep catching tiny movements
in corners of the house. I look more closely
and find…nothing. But I’m sure of what I saw.
Something is here that stays only enough out of sight
to be elusive and yet comes into view often enough
to make it impossible to ignore.
Perhaps I’m losing my mind from seeing
all the demons we always knew were there
in the outside world coming out from under rocks
and crawling out of the garbage. Then again,
I’m assuming bad intent here. Maybe these are
benevolent? Then why hide? I could use a friend.
Maybe they came here
to hide from the demons
only to find me, and that is why they hide.
All I know for sure is that I’m getting used
to the idea of the unseen appearing in corners
I never used to look at
and in spite of myself, I’m beginning to think
that it might not be safer to keep my eyes closed,
but it might be more comfortable in the short run.
Originally posted 9/5/2011. Revised.
The rude elements
dressed your dirt-blessed hand.
Do not apologize for it.
Make the rich,
the distastefully clean,
shake it. Make them see you:
tired, aging too fast,
forearms threaded strong
from work. Force them
to see your clothes: how thin the fabric
on your jeans, the patches,
Give them a moment
to take it all in,
then smack them. Seize their throats
and impress upon them
the everlasting schedule
of your simplified days —
each day you rise, sup,
work, sup, work, sup,
a routine broken
only by the time you steal back
to make a home, make children,
bounce the baby on your greasy knee.
None of the dirt you carry makes you
unclean. All of it was borne to make them
what they are. You deserve this anger
as you count pennies,
You’re more glue
for this shiny cracked country
than any glitter-fed celebrity
or squinting dollar-breeding usurer;
make it known. Grab them one and all
by their hands and at the very least,
make them shake yours — show them
that honest tan under your grime.
If their fear is a likely result,
it may be the wedge
to open the doors
they’ve kept barred for so long.
Who better than you
to open them? Only your shoulder,
so long pressed to their wheels,
can possibly burst those locks.
There is a fluid inside
at least some stars,
I’m certain. I can feel it.
I can feel it falling onto me
from on high on clear nights
with no moon. I raise my head,
startled by a drop
from the dark above. Can feel
nothing on my skin afterward
but the pinpoint of impact shines
for a few seconds and I am
temporarily celestial as well.
Once back inside
when I fall into darkness again
I stare at that once star-bright spot
and remind myself that all I need
is to go back out there and lie down
(perhaps forever) naked under the sky
and eventually I shall become
a pointillist testament to an odd hope
that might be based in illusion but
then again, there I would be to silently refute
the doubters from death as I could not
from within my life, saying
look, I did shine; look, I am shining now —
whether from the soaking of stars
or the drenching of the sun, I shine.
I told you of the liquid in the stars
and here I am: proof.
That was never a border
until Someone made it one
in your name whether you cared
or not. Once it was there
you were expected to agree
with it and with all that it took
to keep it a border, from a wall
to a law. You were expected to be
fine with how those coming this way
were kept out, no matter how badly
the starved or sickened or died of thirst
or bullets. You were expected to forget
about their children and those cages and
those tinfoil blankets and how illness took them
and takes them and how Someone
takes them and trades them out
to terror homes and no one will find them
but they get to stay here since they’ve vanished
already and for Someone that counts as compassion
even as they call bottles of water left for future crossers
on this side of that made-up line
a form of treason. You are expected to forget
all Someone did there in favor of new outrages
upon which to focus your outlaw compassion —
but, do not forget. Do not forget that
Someone started there and
what you see there will be done over and over
here there and everywhere until you are unable
to focus and you surrender just as Someone
is waiting for you to do.
none of us expected
a time so inflated
seams expanded almost to bursting
no longer a flow
instead as shabby
as a failing bridge
distance between seconds grown
far side less and less certain
our history seems
more and more a series
of false supports to a span
over a gap
where those on each side
believe their ground
is all that is solid and
crossing it is folly
at its essence beyond us
will eventually deflate
pull itself together
once we stop waiting for it
to tick just for us
instead let us stand
dead center upon that bridge
and whether we fall or rise
or hang suspended
let us accept what happens
in that perfected time
with full understanding
that from there truth
may look different depending
but never is
in fact anything
more than truth
like time itself
forever beyond our belief
of what it should be