On the worst day, of the worst week, or even just a day, like most that did not go the way you want, step outside at night if the sky is clear and stare upwards at the universe.
Realize that you are seeing more than a monumental collection of celestial bodies, that you are experiencing so much history, and moments older than mankind itself, and in that moment you are in the midst of eternity.
Rockets flash briefly across the chilled sky, plumes of smoke, ash carried off by impending winter.
Over the lintel of the entry to the Inter-Continental Hotel Chicago, carved deeply into the marble Es Salamu Aleikum staring implacably through ponderous brass framed doors onto the Miracle Mile. Countless guests pass below it unseeing.
My son and I sit across a small table spilling bits of tapas onto the cloth, laughing lightly at the young boy bathed in a puree of tomato, his shirt dotted in goat cheese. My son explains the inflation of the universe, gravitational waves cast off by coalescing binary neutron stars. His words pull me deeper into my seat. We speak somberly of the jet engine parked haphazardly in the Queens gas station unwilling to mention 265 lives salted across the small community.
We embrace by his door, the few measured hours run. He turns to call his girlfriend, I turn my collar up against the November night.
The Red Line train clatters slowly back into a sleeping city. In my room I brew a cup of Darjeeling.
*”We will drink tea in Kabul tomorrow morning, if God wills it.” – Basir Khan, Northern Alliance Commander, quoted in the Chicago Tribune, 13 November 2001.
First appeared in Hearsay, 2004 and in The Right to Depart, Plain View Press (2008).
You sit on your self-made throne and stare at the night sky as clouds gather and dissipate beneath you. Do you even recall why you were cast out, condemned to your cell so vast yet infinitely confining? Does your body remember the touch of his hand the crude hunter who set you aflame with a white heat that paled the sun of summer? What do you imagine as tongues of the Perseids lick across the sky and disappear into the ebony holes that lurk in the corners of your eyes? You move slowly across my world and only the dawn brings you peace.
Outside the door nestled in the tall grass white, a plume gossamer, a gift perhaps from a sky finally blue or a tear for the summer’s departure, or, perhaps, a promise, down payment on the freedom from gravity long sought never attained.
Between Scylla and Charybdis they cower amidst the ruins fearful to look skyward lest they encourage the rains of hell.
Now and then they visit the corpses, hastily buried grief drowned by the sound of the laugh of the gunner peering down from the hills. It is always night for the soul and lookout must be kept for Charon, who rides silently along the rivers of blood, that flow through her streets.
In the great halls, far removed from the horror, self-professed wise men exchange maps lines randomly drawn, scythes slicing a people. They trade in lives as chattel, reaping a bitter harvest, praying there may only be but seven lean years.
They offer a sop to Cerberus, three villages straddling the river, but the army of the hills knows they will take that and more and waits patiently for the winter when the odor of sanctity no longer arises out of the city to assail their nostrils and Shadrach is no more than a ghost.
First Appeared in Living Poets (UK), Vol. 2, No. 1, 2000.