The already dead

 

1

 

I assume it is nothing

A pain deep in my bones

Suggesting doom.

I am a harbinger of ill tidings,

That man with the placard

On the city street corner

Shouting warnings of calamity,

Each bout worse than the last,

Cancer, earthquake, invasion from space,

My hands shake as I sketch out

Each scenario in the air,

I am the fallen man beneath the bridge

The bathroom blood bath with slit wrists

The sleeper with the empty bottle on my nightstand

Feeling trapped in my own life

Like a coal miner after a collapse

Hearing the distant sound of rescue,

The digging of shovels through the rubble

I know is really the grumble

Of my own grave being dug

I always hear the sober voices

Filtering down into the coma of my life

Pronouncing the death sentence

While I peer out from under the bed sheets

Pondering the possibilities of my salvation

And each time, after each imagined disaster,

I wonder,

Why bother.

 

2

 

His voice sounded like a crowís

Awing each plea for change

As he made his way along Main Street

His gray and wrinkled face

Painted with the pain of survival

Cold nights sleeping near

The laundryís street-side exhaust

His days stumbling over curbs

In a stagger suited people

Blame on booze

The weariness of walking

Making each block

A Way of the Cross

Kind people giving him coins,

Store keepers bring him

With donuts or coffee

To pick some other corner

On which to bed,

He almost never complains

Though his routine is

A collection of

Strung along woes,

He hopes will secure him

Spare change

His laughter sounds like crying,

A crowís caw elevated in pitch

I asked once if he feared death

He stopped cawing long enough

To say

He was already dead.

 

3

 

For years I thought

Sex was over rated

People didnít screw around

Nearly as much as they said

Media making mountains

Out of mole hills

To which Mohammed

Would never come

 

I saw myself as saint

Thick, with self restraint

Hating the lusty soul

Who could pick a rose?

Without fear of thorns

When aching for the same scene

I could not

 

No medieval torture

Could have felt so cruel

As those moments

Of torment in clubs

When I posted watch

On a bar stood

To witness the lost parade

In which I served as

A mere float

 

I imagined all I might do

With any number of women

Being Jimmy Carter

In the intensity of my passion

A man whose chin was stained

With the juice of forbidden fruit

 

I thought all men

Were just like me

With sex a mere illusion

And the race prospered

By some mysterious

Process of pods,

Seeds falling out

Of our ears and eyes

But rarely erupting

As they do.

 

I kept thinking love

Would save me

A life preserver

Tossed out to me

Even as I sank

For the last time

Over my head in lust

And lack of courage

 

But love is hardly enough

And like Mohammed,

I came too late

 

 

4

 

You left me with

Pigeons and squirrels

In Riverside Park

 

A cold wind and warm sun

Carving out the details

Of my day

 

Monday afternoon

Bringing me back in time

To the early days

When the world was created

 

Me, you and a river

Whose bridge is named

For a man who used

The river for retreat

 

We locked in our weekly ritual

Of advance and withdraw,

Me braving the mists of Avalon

To recover you

For a few brief days

 

Hours squandered

On the concept of love

Each moment squeezed

For all we might

Get out of it.

 

 

5

 

I see them dance in sunlight

The shimmer around their knees

As each wave works its way to shore

Like court jesters entertaining

Kings and queens

Scraps of bread thei8r reward

As tourists giggle

And move on across the sand

 

Each beak of these birds

Pecks at the mirrored surface

Of retreating waves,

To snatch sand crabs

And other sad citizens

Of the shallows

Birds looking as if they knee

Paying homage to the gods

Who provide for them,

Feeding them with each tide

Even in deep winter

When the tourists are gone

 

I see them at dawn

Still dancing,

Picking at sea shells

When the sea is calm

Flicking over each

Piece of debris

For clues of food

Sand drain dribbling

From their beaks

After each attack,

 

 

Sometimes, at night

I hear their wings flat,

As if powered by moonlight, too,

A moving mass in the dark sky

Searching for some invisible

Paradise beyond my perception

Wings catching wind

Leaving me to wish

I could fly as well,

That I could live as they do

Accepting Godís gifts

With no questions asked.

 

 

6

 

I watched the smoke wings fly

From puckered red brick lips

Each chimney, a part for this aerial fleet

Which sets sail and eventually vanishes

Into gray skies ripe with snow.

 

Winter always reminds me of you,

Your blushing face contrasted in memory

Against the threatening sky,

Precipitation eminent in you

And around you at the same time.

 

Your face is reflected in frosted glass

A bitter dream that still

Making my extremities ache

Each time I recall you,

The winds whipping at your scarf,

You wiping the cold from your fingers

By rubbing them against your jeans

 

I begged you to wait for spring

When amid the green you might

See a bud of hope in me

Green leaves leading again

To flowers of love

As they had the first time

 

Autumnís colorful gown

Wears us differently,

Me drenched it is varying †hues,

You soaked in its dismal browns,

Always the harbinger to how

Stark winter will be for us

And how unlikely love can

Survive in such a climate

 

Puffs of smoke rose around you

As you turned to go,

Each chimney sending off messages

Of distress for me, unnoticed,

Growing invisible as the gray

Met gray on that dismal day

 

You,

One more puff of gray

Fading into the distance

As the snow came,

A vision soon vanquished

In all but memory, where each icicle remains

As sharp and painful

As ever

 

7

 

I donít know why I wait here

Or why a train means more to me

Than a car or bus,

The station, a dinosaur

Filled with abandoned bottles

And sheets of yellowed newsprint

Rather than bones.

 

The platform is dotted with

Other refugees like me

Who insists on riding rails

Instead of roads,

And me,

Overdressed,

Anticipating rain,

Looking as if I carried

All I owned on my back

In search of some place

With gold-paved streets.

 

My gaze is locked

Onto the rusting track,

Bus-riding habits

Leading me to hope

The train might

Arrive sooner

Than scheduled,

Looking, looking,

Fearing to blink,

That my ride will pass

Me by

Unnoticed.

 

8

 

I couldnít believe someone

Had killed an animal

To make gloves for me,

Digesting the rest of the beast

For soap and other

Practical products

We stuffed on a shelf

Somewhere

For later use

 

My family had given me

The gloves for Christmas,

Laying the dead beast

Down under the glitter

Of tinsel and Christmas balls

For me to open in the morning

 

How many guilty hands had

Handled them before me,

I wondered,

My family collecting them from a clerk,

A clerk from a warehouse worker,

A worker from a truck driver

All the way back along

The foot chain to the man

With blood on his hands

 

Catholic school taught me

Man was made in Godís image

And assigned to manage

Godís beasts on earth.

Vietnam and this Christmas gift

Telling me how well we had done

My fingers stiff as if fitting them

Inside these gloves

Had pulled the trigger

That ended the poor beastís life

 

One nun later told me a living saint

Wore gloves like mine,

With holes poked in the palms

Where steel nails fit

Precisely leaving a trace of blood

To trickle out at intervals

Lambs blood mingling with his blood

So he needed gloves to keep

His fingers warm,

 

When my family asked

Where my gloves went

I said I lost them

Though my uncle later found them

On top of the trash

 

 

9

 

The crimson light

Spills into my room

Like red water

Into a dented metal bowl

Spilling over

The ragged rusted

Edges of my life

As if to drown me

 

The warmth on my cheek

Wakes me before

The brightness does,

A probing finger

Search out each scar

Left over in me

From my dreams

 

I can hardly breathe.

 

My room remembers

The nightmares better

Than I do,

Like a record keeper

Marking out that hazy

Landscape with

Unintended landmarks,

The sock left here,

The burger wrapper there,

The cobwebs of unused

Life decorating

Waiting reality.

 

I am intimidated

By it all,

Rearranging the artistís work

To recognize what each shape

Really is

Or what it is

Supposed to be

 

Me, blinking blindly

Against the light

Fearful of that neighbors

Pausing outside my window

Might peer in and see

What I am all about,

A collection of distorted images

A floor full of trash,

And no memory of how I arrived here

From where I was in my dreams,

Each moment letting in more light,

But leaving me no wiser

Than I was when last night

I closed my eyes.


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