We try not to think of our fathers. How they, At this age or in this shirt or with that Grey stubble on their now less frequently shaved chin, Speckling a bonier jaw, a slacker jowl, a skrawnier neck - Would look. We try not to meet that old man’s Eye. How the sockets are drawn in, how It seems shinier somehow, intent on your face So as to read your thoughts perhaps anticipate Your rejection your already-forgiven guilt Your patience already wearing thin. We try Not to listen to the intensity of their speech How it repeats its urgent injunctions, its requests, its Generous bequests. When old men die We try not think of our fathers As a man who dodders where he stands. A man Who built a nation with his hands.
You can tell you’re home because they feed you.
Bowls and platters filled in love fried and sautéed and
Curried by hand each spice and grain and leaf
Chosen with care because you’re home and they need you
To know how good it is to have you in the circle
Of their arms, out of harms way. You could say
That this recent splurge of breads and cakes
Exotic recipes, tender meats, and aromatic
Bakes is a circling of arms about ourselves,
A reaching up into neglected cupboards to
Shake a little love from tins on our shelves. Such
A strange thing, food. Hastily wrapped
Meals, made by strangers for nameless strangers
Trapped between the leaving and the returning
So many unhoused each one unknown. Such a
Strange thing, food, delivered in packets,
Hundreds at a time, carrying the promise of home.
I am afraid I will die.
Really? Here in your lovely
Voluntary exile, hibernating with
Your plants and your music and your
Elegant lounging style?
I am afraid to die. Aren’t
We all this is hardly
An emergency. I am afraid to live.
When everyone has died. Seriously
Too many bad movies is hardly cause
To summon the emergency medical
Hologram please state the
I am afraid to live as if everyone is dead.
There was that so hard? Why not just
Say so? Instead we have all this
Bleating about dolphins returning and
The new blue of the skies – true, some
Of it, but mostly photoshop and lies
I’m also afraid – oh there’s more? Where
Does it hurt I’m sure there’s a cure – that
I’m relieved to not be able you see there
Is news of thousands walking beaten
Stuffed into boxes and starving and I
Unable my hands are tied I’m self
Isolated you see couldn’t help if I
Tried but my fear is not a symptom it’s
Really my relief I’m afraid to have to
Add conviction to belief. There. Lie down.
What you’re experiencing is grief. For all
That has died around you and all
You will kill there’s not much
I can do but I will
Say this: as much as you may say that
You want this to end, get back to your
Work, meet a real friend – grief will always
Urge you to pretend that
You got this you can do this everything’s
On the mend. This shall pass too.
So lie down. Things will
Die down. As death tends to do.
You leave in the winter and return
In the spring – a week later, but the
Burn of ice has given way to the wing
Of blue that blazes the day – and a bowl
Of white tulips is on the table. They
Wave in all directions, as if to say, ‘whole
Snowstorms have passed into these blooms.
The seasons don’t really change. In a way,
Spring is a price Winter is willing to pay,
To finally gain entrance into your rooms.’
If the road you’re on should
Curve along the waters, and
The only light is far out on
The sea, I hope the answering
Greys of the skies sing with
The voices of distant eyes
And places where you long
To be. And if the flight of
Feet should bring you oceans
Unshored, leave you without
Bridges, unmoored, I wish you
Clouds both light and dark,
Where courage is the mist you
Hold as you fasten your fear
To your barque.
The room they stayed in, of burnished gold,
Sleeps in monarchical hues, like queens of old.
We cannot enter, desecrate
This looking glass that lets fall its duties of state
Stands traitor – a window, a mirror, in its way,
A fallen guard, exposing newly-weds where they lay.
Did they look out, from their private paradise
Imagine, in centuries to come, world-weary eyes
That rest in colours of consummation
Like holes in towers in a walled in nation.
Alas, poor Ezra, institutionalised
Whose images left him undisguised
What poetry can save the wearied gaze?
What rest for the walker of forbidden ways?
You can see him strain forward, bend
To the weight of caring. There
Are no spokes in the wheel – could she
Fend for herself, could she dare
To tell him that between him and her
There is only rushing air?
If you died building the wall, they say,
You were buried within it. Upright, maybe,
So you could still see the enemy coming
And stand your ground. Or, if you lay,
Your hands folded, perhaps, you could count
The soles of hurrying feet. Windows and
Arches open the sky in shapes of fear that
Slide along the walls of Watch Tower 14.
Hills of blue and square skies threaten to fall
On the reclining or upright dead, like enemy
Feet, with truncheons and knives. A wall
Is such a fragile bridge between living
Deaths and dying lives.
There is a lion at the gates. Fierce of eye and
Sharp of tooth though he be, he is burnished
To glory by hands on his shoulders, his mane, his
Knee. A hundred outstretched hands, a thousand
Palms a day, on lion-hair spikes and hammered
Nails, once meant to impale all desire for entry
Through the doors to these forbidden
Cities of hope, gleam with the yearnings
Of millions of fingers. A kind of earning
Of lustre lost in the service of kings. Things
Of iron can endure, it seems, till the hidden
Glories of tempered gold burnish each touch
Each pilgrim’s and seeker’s hand saying ‘thus much
Do I render unto Ceaser that which
Can never be his: an empire of stubborn dreams
The sum total of which is this, this forbidding nail
Rubbed gently aglow. Who is savior? Who redeems?’
Look upon these hands, commoner and king
Holier than the celestial harmonies of the house of Ming.
You go to the sidewalk and you
Call out a name any name that
Comes first to your mouth you
Don’t look North you don’t
Look South it’s all the same at
The beginning of the end everyone’s
Your friend the guy frying eggs
On a thela by the street omelettes
People buy in a hurry to eat the
Kid kicking cans in a fenced off
Lawn the women eyeing the
Flip flops that you had on because
You knew there wasn’t going to
Be a dawn that this heartbreaking
Sunset was just another con why
Would the threadbare family care you’re
Just passing through they live
There on the edge of paths that
Pass them by blowing out clouds that
Blot out the sky you should think twice
If you’re going to do this think of all
The great stuff you’re going to
Miss the house you won’t step into the
Fields you’ll never see the trick of
The light that makes you think you’re
Prettier than you used to be but the
Time has come you’ve had your
Walk no leisure left to stop take stock the
World will end tomorrow and you
Should call out a name so that the
Monsters in the morning will know
Whom to claim.