Imagine being nineteen again, still pimply and awkward, parroting a script from behind a plexiglass wall: Phone number, please, you say, and imagine her fingers, typing one in. You hear the click, clicking of keys on the keypad, sickening, music of the dead, you think, you’re dying.
You’re maybe a hundred pounds, just a little thing, whose mask covers two thirds your fragile face, and they buried you at the door, the enforcer, instructed to say— This door, not that, and arrows, follow them, follow them, do like I do, with this cover, my voice smothered, my soul—
I’m sure I was just standing there, leaning over my cart, watching my daughter shop for cards, when I heard her voice— not the enforcer, but a fellow peruser, like me, another blank face, masked, breathless, breathlessly, you’re going the wrong way, she said, you’re not following the arrows, she said, and her bony, dead finger pointed down along the ground. I followed it, and sure enough, she was right about me: Rule breaker, careless spreader of germs. The shame, the shame, she would have me feel, for facing the wrong way, disobeying.
Fuck that. My latest mantra. Fuck that and fuck that, too. Even as I do it. Where’s the humanity in this? I want to scream. But who would hear me? We’re too busy saving lives by not living, buttressed as we are behind masks, She doesn’t even realize I’m not smiling, Or, does she? Maybe there’s something of, fuck this shit, in my eyes, the only part of me she can see, if she tries to see, but she doesn’t.
The mask isn’t merely the covering for a mouth, a nose, — it’s blanket, too, as in a morgue. Covering the dead. And I know, my time is coming soon enough, but I’m not dead yet, covered as I am, prepared for burial. Yet, still pounding on coffins, trying to pull back the heavy veil, cursing my heart away,
Sentient soul, to sentient soul, he realized her panic when he came barreling around the corner; sundown, and their eyes met for just that second, she decided to run. He’d forgot to honk his horn, thought she’d made it, then the thud, like the snap of twig, a broken limb, the doe, three-legged, ran down the ravine. He was amazed at her speed, dismayed by his deed, that couldn’t be undone, or lightened, or made right. In fact, he knew there was nothing left except she would die. He wondered at that, and how death arrives when we least expect, and then, the frantic, lonesome search for a quiet place to lay your broken body down, and the terrible waiting: last fear, last tight breath, a final severance from this world on what had been a beautiful night.
Digging up some of my oldies about war. My thoughts and feelings have not changed.
O, Beautiful, January 13, 2007
Does the sand, there, pile up like snow, here Do grains of it rise like sun floating crystals in a fickle breeze Is its heat as unbearable as our winter freeze which makes a trickle stream, thickens the water in the trough I ask you, is the desert there as beautiful as our plains, as beautiful as winter wheat snow covered, before amber waves, as wide-open to life, as willing when we lay down and die
These poems were based on news clippings from the time.
Sela-hammahlekoth (gorge of divisions)
We stand at the sela-hammahlekoth, great gorge of division, and we will not be sacrificed; It will grow wider and deeper, we’ll each back from the precipice, further and further from one another until, finally, we cannot see, reach out to, or remember we loved. My Lord, My Lord: why have we have forsaken each other, our sisters, our brothers?
This morning, over coffee, we argued about the war, All this after the bed and what happened there, When he loved me and said so. Yesterday we worked together Cleaned ovens, sprayed the deck, Installed lights and tore down the bedroom wall. We laughed over a movie and popcorn, Surveyed our lives together and said, This is good. But this morning, over coffee, we argued— We argued about the war and WMD And now I’m here at my computer And he’s off on his own, Fixing the furnace.
“Try to figure out some way to understand this thing the horse is so full of, and that he has such a strong desire to get from the person in return. It has to be togetherness. Mind, Body and Spirit is what we’re talking about here.” Tom Dorrance, True Unity