A fifth-grade bully, a blossoming romance, a late-night crash
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The first few thin cuts
I could forgive, even the gashes at the wrist,
the clawing to get the job over with.
But after the heart refused to give up,
each nerve cell
protesting, this pain
the only way the body knew
to insist on its rights,
how could you have begun to search kitchen drawers
for a sharper blade? And then stab
but three times. Why would anyone
wish to harm the belly,
the old buffoon who wants only to be fed?
What had it done to deserve this butchery?
The act monstrous
not because it’s impossible to imagine
but because it is possible.
All night on my knees
I crouch over the dark stains, scrub
like someone doing more than cleaning,
determined to rub so hard, the blood
is not just gone
but has never been there, this work
clear, specific, a trail
I follow from room to room.
At least your daughters won’t have to see
the streaked walls, soiled curtains.
There is no healing mass for your friends.
All we can do now
is to turn the dark clots of your blood
back into a pale, watery wine
and flush it. SEIZE THE DAY
the poster by your front door reads.
HAVE YOU MADE THIS DAY
THE BEGINNING OF A NEW LIFE?
the poster by the back door asks.
What kind of world is this?
you’d cry out, start ticking off items
on a list you faithfully kept
updating: reports of starvation in our own city,
the dismemberment of a young, gay man,
a former student of yours killed
while waiting for a light to change,
this war. You overlook evidence
to the contrary, don’t want
to be confused any further by living
in a world of incalculable horror
and small comfort. Blood for oil,
you said, Mark my words,
there will be blood for oil.
Now on every station
where there’s supposed to be music
there’s more news
of the bombings. If I run this faucet long enough
the blood will soak loose
from my rag, the water will unravel
in my hands, cold
and clear again. How difficult it is
to forgive this world for being
what it is: accidental
and unfathomable. Apparently
there was no place on your ledger
for my clumsy, sometimes exasperated acts
of concern, no acknowledgment
of your own generous impulses, wry humor,
the body’s gallant persistence,
its great courage
that had kept you alive
even with your wrists slashed,
even as the sun fell across your face.