We live on what we take from each other.
Loneliness, the way we die, successes and failures
don’t come one at a time.
Believe what God would have you believe—
that it all comes down at once, a deluge of happenstance—
the same stuff that got us here will take us out
and we will continue to try to make “family” out of strangers.
It is perpetual the way we wait out the night,
venturing out into its dark eye,
holding the belt of the poor sucker in front of us.
Somebody must know where we’re going,
so we follow along and pray that the way will come clear
when we need it to do so. If we could hear properly,
the voice of the lamb would guide us, each to his own cell, each to her own boudoir, where we would embrace
and rejoice in the icy silence.
We are so much longer ago than we ever thought
and our pursuits grow more frantic with each dawn,
with each dark. It’s all ahead of us:
exhaustible love, conditional forgiveness,
despairing bumper stickers
MY KID IS NOT AN HONOR STUDENT,
SHE’S A DRUG ADDICT
I’m talking here about immortality—how it disguises itself
and how we run after it, following its trail in the earth
Watching it escape all the way to the ocean.
The light rain of your own name
is strange to you—a foreign documentation
of your self disappearing into a house
that was never really there.
And will you leave that house
and leave your name at its doorstep
as a warning to God to let you be?
Will you go down into the cellar
where jars of peaches and pickled eggs
sit in stasis waiting for you
to claim your history?
And will you run from that cellar
into the syllables of another life,
someone else’s life bigger than your own?
Will you listen all night to the strong wind
pummeling the trees, pounding out sentences
that you want to remember but won’t?
You see, your name will take them from you
and, sure as the delicate bones of a bird
grace the treetops, you will die to live again.
Who are they, these blurred figures
Longing for a digital fix?
They’ve given up peace to play at passion,
they claw at a God who keeps spiritual secrets.
(God has always kept secrets, it is we who tell
every thing we know to every one we know.)
They are us, I fear.
When does mercy kick in?
Whitman waited for mercy to kick in and,
if fame and book sales are any measure,
compassion showed itself eventually.
Whitman whispered “Why not me”
into the dark brown night of the city
and the city handed him black-eyed boys
with Spanish tongues as warm and
malleable as communion wafers.
There has to be a ripening along the way.
The dim, disturbing trail of news items
can’t be all there is to trouble our hearts.
Dante Alighieri admonished us to
“remember tonight for it is the beginning
of always,” but we don’t remember.
Death all around us folds and unfolds
like a fan. We are losing things
that were so much more negligible
than we’d ever believed.
Our skillful flippancies
reek of a bad track record
and we use ideograms for the words
we can no longer say (Mother, Father, Family).
We are orphaned in this land of
Barney the Dragon
and Beefcake calendars.
Those blurred figures—
they have regret etched into their bodies.
It’s not a good look.
Jazz bands accompany the gluttony for power
we’ve managed to encourage and we believe
every word we’ve ever told ourselves. So, then,
where is mercy or the exegesis of mercy?
Somewhere, someone is cutting hair,
dancing to the music of a twelve-string,
baking cinnamon buns, creating ideograms.
Somewhere, someone is staring up
at the enormous sky of a fallen city and
counting transgressions instead of stars.
Martina Reisz Newberry’s most recent book is WHAT WE CAN’T FORGIVE. She is also the author of LATE NIGHT RADIO, PERHAPS YOU COULD BREATHE FOR ME. HUNGER, AFTER THE EARTHQUAKE: POEMS 1996-2006, NOT UNTRUE & NOT UNKIND (Arabesques PressAmari Hamadene, editor) and RUNNING LIKE A WOMAN WITH HER HAIR ON FIRE: Collected Poems (Red Hen Press).