It’s silly to be bothered at a time like this
about not seeing the neighbor’s cat for several days
when she normally lies in wait for slow birds
under the bush in my front yard
right around dusk every evening; nonetheless,
when I see the old man who owns the building
out on his porch I ask and learn that the cat’s
doing fine as he knows, still on the third floor,
still leaving dead mice on his back stoop almost nightly.
I shift into an alternate silliness around my concern
that it’s something I’ve done that keeps her away
from my yard, scratching my head almost to raw blood
trying to determine what ritual I must have altered
to shift the balance and drive her away: did my cursing
of her near-unerring aim for dullard sparrows
and unthinking mourning doves have an effect
beside making me feel better as a defender
of the sanctuary I thought I’d made here?
When I think of how little I recall day to day now,
when I think of how much I forget, I’m nearly certain
this is my fault. That it is the natural order of things
that some lapse of mine made the world change. That
the rest of the world goes on — safer birds still feeding,
still-deadly cat having moved on to steadier hunting ground.
What I thought was the way of the world is fading, moving away
Silly? It is likely. But prove me
wrong, please. Please,
prove me wrong.
because to go there
is to put your bare hand
on a contaminated doorknob
and yank on it till you fall backwards
into pig shit then lie there exposed
to whatever comes through
from the other side.
because to go there is to get naked
and take a huge swing
at a hornet’s nest the size of
your own ego.
because to go there
is to eat a bowl of sorrow
twice a day for weeks and then
open a circus in your belly
for all to attend.
how do you not see this?
it’s so obvious.
it’s not good there.
I was born there
and have lived there
off and on
for my whole life.
I am intimate with this need
to be cursed
with ferocious curiosity
about the adventure of
and I am telling you,
begging you: let’s not.
let’s not go there.
don’t twist that key.
let go of that handle.
the teeth around the doorframe
will rip you
before you even get through
and tear you
if you manage to come back out.
there are so many better things
here. the wind can be strong
but it is always fresh.
when it rains here, it cleanses.
when the sun rises, it strengthens you
long before it can burn you.
believe me when I say
you do not want to know the forecast
for what’s on the other side
of that door.
in spite of all this I know
your hand is still reaching
for it. I know because
mine always has. so I’m begging
let’s not. to go there
is to suffer. is to starve
on a meat pile. is to drown
in dank urine and thick old blood.
is to never die completely.
is to warn warn and warn
and never be heard.