4 Dec 2016

Coda

It begins with death.

We walk over the ash
that is the floor of the valley where
the light is failing, but
night never comes. I keep pace
to move them along. Many think
there is still somewhere to go.

So many questions: I tell
what I can, ask them to
keep the answers to themselves, since
what they say now can't be heard.
Some only weep. I carry them.
A few say nothing as they
gaze at my long, crooked darkness,
searching for a face.

So many pleas: tearlessly
they beg for more time, not knowing
the schedule I must work to.
They're candles on water, a tender light
rippling upon its own demise.
The flicker tells one truth,
but a flame forgets darkness.

Now the way narrows to this solemn crevice
that seems wider than the valley.
In a moment they turn
to face their footsteps, and find
that the speaking shadow was their own.

Inside, they find
etched on cavernous walls
strange signs by many hands,
some frightened, others maddened,
all of them lonely.
Last and clearest is a dignified scrawl:
ONCE I WAS
NOW I AM NOT

What Stone Recalls

Ah.
The long grass whispers
of my coming with that warm,
warm wind while the rain
sings against the rocks,
muddying the red, red earth
that gladly clings to bare feet.

Soon, night—night!—and we hide
from fear behind the fire burning like hearts,
and we drink up that wood smoke, shapeless
ghosts reaching to the sky
circling above. Now I have my woman
beneath the blanket of stars, every last star.

Such sounds, these sounds,
words that hum as they climb
the throat, the sighs, little birds
taking flight from her lips.
How can the stone recall? Still we try
in crude signs for children,
for strangers to say yes,
something like you was here before,
and like they knew this place, they felt
what you have felt.

I remember.

I remember, I see
all of it, though
nothing is mine.
You remember, too? Then
it’s ours. We'll share
what we don't have.

Charon

I guard the way to the Leader's city
from throwaway castles overlooking
the ground that came apart, screaming and thrashing
beneath shells falling. In a land of dark holes
hungry for the grateful dead,
the gravedigger is out of work.

Our heroes have no names.
We stop counting lost friends
when we run out of fingers.
Their flag shines
red painted on their chests,
and golden as metal fingers pointed
at the hearts of the condemned,
hearts strangely like theirs.

Don't leave my side too soon—stay
close enough that I can feel your chill presence
wrest each gasping breath of desperate warmth.
Don't let them know out there that
something still lives, and lay
a brittle hand on my shoulder as I pass
each one your way.

Here I am, blind but for a dead glass eye,
watching green foxes scamper
among the tumbled stones, all by the bank
of this roaring river. Just as well:
something for the unwilling oarsman
to ferry lost souls along.

We are all so clueless,
so foolish. The Leader
is six hundred miles away,
and Death six inches.