Slitting the throat of our contemplation, let delusional lamps cast luminous strands to defend us from this sleet, a thousand unwanted shards of poisonous candy, dying breath of March.
Let oil burn the paint away from winter’s walls, bereft of ornament. Let the couch be stained and full of purpose. Let lust claw at our twitching spasms of crave, our lonely lonely lonely, our waiting wanting maybe getting.
Pretty people ink their necks and ankles, take their medicine, reinvent themselves in the sauna or while traveling another country, one-eyed Jacks and pin-up Jills whose winks and wry smiles are reason enough for catastrophic hopelessness, for giving up completely, for the preacher to carefully undress and eat a pastry.
My heart shines from its place in my breast,
a candle in a mist-bound wood,
to know you’re not like all the rest,
to sing your name soft as I could.
To sing of sage and stout tealeaves
while we roll among the heather,
to wander over root and branch
on woodland paths that wind forever.
Where every thicket hides a sprite,
and daffodils float here and there.
Where moon and star shine twice as bright
and wise ones council everywhere.
To sing your name soft as I could,
to know you’re not like anyone.
A wedding in a lighted wood,
a first kiss given beneath the sun.
When you’re young, you can change at the drop of a dime – something harder to come by with the passing of time. Your life fills up, library shelves, an archive of days.
You plan your liberation like an outlaw the night before the hanging, a gigolo on the morning of the wedding day. But escape escapes you, and before you know it, yours is another life spent, a nickel in a parking meter, a postcard without a message, a faded picture in a frame. The frame is how you see your life – maybe straight, maybe a little crooked. Maybe barely hanging on to the wire balanced on the screw in the wall.
Then comes death, greatest pickpocket this world has ever known.
When it comes to dying, you’ll be rich as the richest and poor as the poorest. You’ll be out of luck, out of time. Deeds aside, you’ll pierce the veil. You hope to look good as you pierce the veil, but you might have a bit of rice on your chin, or be so emaciated your family hardly recognizes you. It’s not likely to be a graceful or beautiful death, but you never know.
When it comes to dying, who’s to say?
As a kid I learned how to steal candy without anyone seeing, and, on more honest days,
how to buy the most candy with the least amount of loose change. I learned how to build a fire, how to walk the railroad tracks, how to knock off a list of Saturday chores in record time.
I knew when there were maggots in something by the smell. I knew life was good when the corn was high. I could tell by the mood of the grownups.
My hand still remembers writing its first love letter in awkward sprawling cursive,
and my legs remember riding my bike six miles over flat prairie roads to slip it into your mailbox, put the flag up, and streak away like a scared bunny, pedaling madly,
heart banging, summer skin dripping, so naively unprepared for the rush.
Your totally straight parents must have hated that: the only hippie kid from the tiny local schoolhouse (complete with rainbow suspenders and a bowl haircut) professing his newly-discovered timeless love for their daughter, via annoyingly-poetic bad penmanship. It was an unpleasant little trick for them, I’m sure, like eating peeled grapes while blindfolded, and being told they’re eyeballs.
If only your skin could be shed, you could wriggle out and leave your body behind
with all its organs and nerve endings and inner workings and bloody mess, just leave it.
One could step out of illness then, like climbing through a secret window.
One could rise up then, like a perfectly lovely balloon, leaving it all far below,
a heap of ash and ruined mess, and have a birds-eye look around.
But none of this has any truth.
Truth is that for some there is never a time of peace, never a gladness to lift the eyes nor a lightness beneath the heart, no one to keep the fire going. It is the grave task of some
to face constant trial all their days. Their business is not of merriment.
While mirthful smiles sparkle, somewhere bitter lines of worn care deepen. While somewhere the volume of laughter increases, elsewhere a silence settles like bricks. While hands clasp in companionship, other hands are wrung together. And while some skip freely among tended gardens, others kneel, bent low to the ground, pricked by thorns, pleading for Mercy herself to come and claim them.
Your life is no longer insulated. There’s a draft getting in through the creaky floorboards. Sleep eludes you like a hunted animal. You are in someone else’s body living someone else’s life in someone else’s house. You are a mess in the corner of a room. People do not tread carefully. They stampede like caribou, busting up hearts and paying no attention. They do not notice. The open heart gives freely and is butchered ten thousand times. How to keep it from closing?
Every-day-is-just-the-same blues smear soot on your face in a not-beautiful way. What might have been is hidden away beneath stones of circumstance. The stones are too heavy to lift, and you wobble like a coin that has finished rolling. Dig for broken dreams or turn and walk away?
A mouse takes advice from the nearness of a cat. An egg likes its toast. The waitress rose at 4:30 to work the morning shift, serving breakfast to sweethearts and pricks. The man who smelled of wet dog ordered pancakes. It’s only time, it doesn’t matter, a steady climb, a pitter-patter of rain upon the windowsill, singing of a whippoorwill. What’s all the fuss about?
I tried to kill time, but it just wouldn’t die. It, however, will finish me, using one of its two ways: deliberate efficiency, or slow surgery.
That being said, may I not preach what I practice, but practice it silently. May I learn to love folding laundry and be grateful for dry socks. May I acknowledge my crippling weaknesses alongside my thrumming strengths. May I learn to free others from suffering, and ease my own in doing so. May I not pretend, but keep true and stay real.
In my darkest time, may I be a light.