What do you say
to those who turn their backs
on those broken in battle,
or broken at the sight of battle,
who were left to clean up the collateral damage,
or who were collateral damage,
were pierced by IED’s,
or shaped charges,
who had inadequate armor,
or no armor at all,
who were left in moldy rooms,
were dropped on the street,
who don’t want to go back again, and still again,
who see clearly with their eyes closed,
who cannot find shelter in a maelstrom of thoughts,
who did what was asked
and wish they hadn’t,
who asked for leaders and found only followers,
who asked why and were told “just because,”
who never came back, or
who were left here.
Previously appeared in SNReview, Vol. 9, No. 2, 2007 and in The Right to Depart, Plainview Press (2008).
Only in New York will you find a giraffe looking up at taller buildings
and not thinking this the least bit strange. People always look up at
buildings and it is never strange, but people know that giraffes must
be different and their looking up is by its very nature strange. Giraffes
look down at people as well. This is not strange, and people accept this
although they are usually not pleased. People do not like being looked
down upon. Not even by giraffes.
It has far less to do
with the casting of the net,
far more to do
with the reeling it in.
The spider wishes
to work in peace weaving
her web, does not desire
to be seen.
For her this is work
and it is not until done,
or as done as she chooses,
that she can sit at its hub.
Spiders are patient,
much like fishermen,
knowing time is not
the enemy but
merely a construct
to mark the space
between now and
from which both
spider and fisherman
Tomorrow, he is certain,
it will be sunny and surprisingly warm
or it will rain, with a cool breeze
or it will be temperate
but rather cloudy.
It may be none of these
or all, by turns.
He would ask the weatherman
but he knows none and this
would be such a personal question
you need an intimacy
that he has rarely felt.
The weather doesn’t really matter
to him anyway, for tomorrow
he is certain, his room
will be unchanged, only
the nurses will be different.
The last time we spoke
you asked me when the end was coming.
I didn’t have a good answer for you,
wasn’t even quite sure what you meant
by the question, the end of what? Of time,
of your life or mine, or merely the end
of a conversation we had been
carrying on for as long
as either of us could remember.
That was some time ago
and I have thought about
your question quite frequently
and seeing you today,
you walking by me
without acknowledging me,
I realize the answer
should have been
and most certainly now is
that the end came
the moment you
started your question.
You believe this is how, and where, it begins,
but that is only your conception of it.
You believe the mirror shows your face
each morning, but it is merely polished glass,
and you mind sees what it perceives to be you
in the glass, while the glass is empty.
It has no real beginning, at least not one
that you or I can hope to identify, it has
always been and it will never be, but we
will perceive it to be as it has been,
perceive it to have begun at some point
in time, but time is also a perception, a way
we can try to define our perceptions.
You may well doubt all of this, but know
that doubt is the beginning of understanding,
so you have begun to walk along the way,
which is where you are and have always been,
if you can only conceive of it that way.
And then there is the abyss
where it all comes crashing
back down on you and there is nothing
and no one, and you grasp
and find only yourself at the bottom
and arise, crawl up and out,
and nothing has changed except
the face of one who saw you fall.
You say words meant to calm
either you or the others, but
they sound hollow, all words
have an emptiness in this moment,
and you know it will pass,
and you know it will not pass
nearly soon enough, and you remember
the moments, once, when you
would think that the abyss
the drug created would last
forever and in that moment
you began the slow return.