Yes, No, Neither, N/A

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Somewhere the rules were written
that we’re free to believe our lives
are all part of some Grand One’s
equally Grand Plan, one concocted
behind a door in the firmament
that reads: Gown and Glove Before Entering.
Others wrote that it’s all on us,
warts, mud, blood and all.
But isn’t it also possible we might be
students in a metaphysical low-security
prison school, our lives contained in stacks
of test papers surrounding our dorm rooms.

We spend our days filling in a circle
— Yes, No, Neither, n/a —
with our No. 2 free will.
From time to time, like on
a fire drill schedule, The Dean
opens the window and blows in
a breeze, scattering our papers in
a haphazard blizzard.
With a sigh, we pick them up and
just as haphazardly restack the unanswered
ones, grab ol’ No. 2 and decide
Yes, No, Neither, N/A
until the next blast of planned
supreme serendipity blows up our
little lives all over again.

Penultimate poem (Number 29) in Poem-A-Day April 2016. A haphazard write quickly rendered because…I’m whipped by time and poetically creative exsanguination.

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Last Rites

An Irish Wake

An Irish Wake

When you lie there in the dark
in the sleep that is not yet sleep,
does the thought ever awaken
(like the pea beneath your mind’s mattress)
what it’d be like to lie in the coffin
within your casket in the not-yet-death?
Do you wonder who’ll come visit
your corporeal self as you, with
maybe one eye slyly peeking, capture
memories as the soon-to-be-tipsy mourners
contemplate, inflate and conflate
your times together, consecrate,
them perhaps with a baptism
of a tear or two?

If the don’t, I won’t judge.
My hands’ll be knotted in someone
else’s damn rosary, so I couldn’t cast
any stones, let alone the first.
But, boy, would I love to roll away
the rock they plant me beneath,
in a fourth-quarter comeback resurrection
just to confirm I saw in your hands
the letters I wrote, even the ones
I never sent, but composed in this,
my warm and waking coffin here in the dark,
here in the sleep that’s not yet sleep,
here where it feels so much like death
in my every-night not-quite-life.

Poem Number 13 of poem-a-day NaPoWriMo 2016. This one prompted by a call for a “Last (Something)”-titled poem. Yeah, I went there. Not sure if this is an egomaniacal exercise or just another potential disappointment captured in verse.

The Shoes You Only Wear in This Rain

Muddy-shoes

They’re falling all around me now,
the large and small, old and young,
so many that it feels like
the rains in Spring, their passing,
the sound of water dripping,
falling off the eaves of my heart.
And still I’m here, chronicling
what I don’t think I want to know.
Is there a light you lope after?
Or do you fly like a moth until then?
Does the light, all of it, just go out?
Not a flicker, nor a dimming. Just…
nothing.

These unusual secrets my raindrops
took with them when they fell,
even though I watched and listened
when some of them did.
It wasn’t just a ping on a tin roof
followed by a plop in the muddy puddle
of their mingling with earth.
It was natural, gravity winning out
over angels’ wings, the wings that wrung
these showers from those clouds,
that rat-a-tatted on the corrugated
prayers you huddle beneath,
that collect on your cheeks and spatter
the blessed mud of their ashes
on the shiny shoes you only wear
in this spate of rain.

There have been just too many over too short a time, and I can’t take any more.

This Time, Our Time

Pine_Forest,_Kuttikkanam

The wind through the old-growth evergreens
whistles and cracks like the music
of some Mohawk ceremony, celebrating a birth,
a coming of age, a wedding, an ended life.
Standing in the middle of the natural song
and swaying dance of the needle-leaves
you could believe it to be any and all.
Even now, with slick maple and birch leaves
beneath your feet, with closed eyes,
you can’t tell if it’s the newborn autumn
or spring of your childhood, adulthood, end.

It’s just This Time, Your Time.

With a deep inhalation, you draw in life
that tastes of pine spirits,
and feel yourself sway with the wind.
Now you exhale a flute-like wheeze
as your old bones click within you and
you open your eyes to realize you’re just
another part of your supple old brothers
and as long as you sway in song with them
you’ve a chance at another dance.

In This Time, Our Time.

Photo: Cool, misty pine forest in Kuttikkanam, via Wikimedia Commons

Angel Dust

There’s a Christmas tree up there
behind the altar–closer than
the Nativity scene to the right–
a mixed message in a season
full of messages. The oversized
angel atop the twelve-footer is
running cover for keeping
the Christ close to the Mass
in this church’s Christmas.

But she’s just one more angel
in a hall echoing with them.
They all look down upon the rows
of sinners and saints who
look up from time to time
searching for solace,
or salvation or something
I’m pretty sure I’ll never realize.

The angels and some kneelers
look down on tree-topper and me, too.
That’s how it’ll always be here–
house rules, home vs. visitors.
That might be why Christmas Angel and I
only show up when we’re called to.
It’s how we keep from collecting
too much of their dust on our wings.

Five Our Fathers and Eight Hail Marys

SantCompostela25

Confessionals in the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, Spain,
by Georges Jansoone, via Wikipedia

It was silly, the heart-pounding,
sweaty-palmed anxiety
of sitting there in the twilight
of a near-empty church,
waiting to whisper what a ten-year-old
thought were grievous sins
to a forty-year-old man hiding in a box
behind a screen and a collar.

I remember the nuns making us
practice for first confession
and sending me back to my seat
to think up more sins, since
I couldn’t come up with enough
imaginary ones from which
I could be given a real penance.

I haven’t been back in many years.
Not since one of those guys
sitting in the darkness committed
his own too-real heart-pounding,
sweaty sins and felt forgiven
after some buddy in another box gave him
five Our Fathers and eight Hail Marys.

My catch-up poem, #13 in Poem-a-Day NaPoWriMo 2015, from a prompt asking for a confession poem. A free-write produced this, for which I may burn.

Going Fast

When I was young, fasting meant
PBJ or grilled cheese at lunch,
creamed tuna or fish sticks for dinner
on our meatless Lenten Fridays.
The priests and nuns said God
willed us to change up the menu,
but never explained why, just that
once it was complete we earned our
Easter candy and a week of ham.
Now you tell me you’re forcing
a spiritual, a physical hunger
upon yourself, because you long
for some abstraction, an ideal,
not something tangible like
a Coney Island hotdog
or carne asada burrito.

Maybe if I knew how hunger
would bring about “better,”
I’d understand how this sacrifice
of gustatory satisfaction works.
Will you recognize it on
your tongue when your sacrifice
brings the fabulous prize you seek?
When your fast for a greater good
is finally sated, when the world’s
bêtes noires negated, could you
please tell me one more thing?
Peace, does it taste like
chocolate bunnies?