9.20.2014

Miscellaneous Notes from Unwritten Chapters

It's a little past sunset, and
you and I are chilling on your front porch,
though our grandkids say that "chilling"
isn't a thing you do anymore.
The railing flakes with rust under 
weathered green paint,
and we've decided to ignore common
sense for a while and go barefoot.
My feet, brown from your unswept porch
and all dusty in the wrinkles, are cold 
because they're not used to socklessness and
the early autumn wind anymore;
your feet are warm because your fat, fluffy 
cat is lying on them.
Inside, your daughter and my son
(whom we betrothed at birth) 
are putting their youngest child to bed,
while their teenage twins play the Xbox 360
in your living room and giggle
at old technology.
"Do you remember," you say, 
"when we first wrote poems together?"
We laugh because we can't,
and because we've never stopped, and
because growing older is definitely
something to laugh about,
as long as we're doing it together.

We haven't yet 
looked Death in the face, 
but when we do, we'll laugh again
because it's just another chasm
that our Father's built the bridge across,
and on the other side
there are probably plenty of cats
and another creaky porch railing 
for us to put our heels up on,
as we talk about the way life's rhythms
turn out a lot like poetry,
and we'll age, like wine or cheese or
maybe ageless people,
into a glorious eternity. 

9.04.2014

Tar

When I was born into night's darkness,
I came with my own bucket
of tar, gleaming thickly black and
brimming full to the edges, all
for me, all my own.

The tar was smooth on my tiny fingers
and richly warm in my mouth, so
I loved it at the start, though it
dried heavy and permanently deep;
I decorated myself with layers of the stuff,
savoring the little thrill
of its slow trickling and subtle warmth
in the moments before it
sank into my skin and crusted over,
turning me into a shadow
among shadows.

The first time I saw the glow creeping
at the edges of the city
I screamed and coughed up terror
for days. I'd felt it then:
the spark's inevitability,
the readiness of the whole blackened mass
to ignite and burn itself—and me,
all painted over with death's
hot, grasping hands—into oblivion.
I huddled back into the dark,
choking on crusty sobs and hating light
with every dried-up, thirsty bone
in my body.

Rain fell every now and then
and dripped off me, clear,
inking the tar with midnight blossoms
but slipping straight across the thick shell.
Nothing could wash me.
I broke my wrists trying
to crack them open against the cement step
of an abandoned building,
felt wet blood slippery on my skin
—for one merciful second it seemed almost
to melt the tar from within—
until it dried, too, more
stinking fuel waiting to burn.

As I grew taller, I shook to realize
my everlasting night was one immense
shadow, cast by an immeasurable
and swift-advancing morning.
Already half the city's streets were lit,
stripped naked in the harsh glare
of the imminent sunrise and
its inexorable draw.

Now, perhaps, you know
the rest of the story. Perhaps you, yourself,
have seen exactly how much blood
it takes to dissolve tar,
and can tell me how he silently took
the bucket from your heavy hands
on his way to the city square.
Perhaps you will always remember
the blazing cobblestones and
the shape of his blackened silhouette
as he met the fire:

knees bowed low and face set forward,
while the flames leaped into the sky,
licking up every trace
of tar they found, and leaving you
untouched, trembling,
whole.