I live in a city of death.
I know this because I’m forced to sidestep mangled, scorched bodies peppered down the walk every day when I bring in the mail, or when I lug in the groceries. Our block is a necropolis of hundreds. Roasted alive on their incomplete journeys to a better life. Or perhaps crushed to death by giants, and then burned like a funeral pyre.
I have to wonder at the death rate in this city, why no one else seems to be bothered much by it. Loud men on TV would say we have much bigger problems than to worry about spineless immigrants burned trying to get from one piece of land to another. This is our land, they’d say. Serves them right, they’d say.
Once in a while someone comes along with a broom to sweep the bodies away, and dig a big hole to hide the evidence. I think this could be me one day. I could be the one brushing away the sins of neglect, helping society forget what it’s allowed. But more than that I could easily end up a heap in the road, a travelling casualty, burned and torn. No one would lower the flag for me.
Maybe it’s a curse of exposure; we can’t mourn as much death as we see. So we have a value system in place. And I, on my errands and afternoon walks, can’t do anything to change it.
We don’t have the time for worms. In a city of death, their bodies are not our problem.
‘Tis told to me that I must heed the rule
of older poets blessed with larger pens-
to cherish all the forms I learned in school
and practice sight through imitation’s lens.
But I in my foolhardiness do balk
at being led to water I’ve not found;
at being steered to join an ardent flock
whose homage to their elders does resound
like thousand year-old hymns, always the same,
rife replicas of patterns proven true.
As worn-out wood cannot support a flame,
so sonnets and their like breed nothing new.
Except to boast a new flow’r on my bonnet
I see no reason to write a sonnet.
I am training for something bigger.
Some string has dropped down just in front of me and I’m pulling away at it like mad.
I’m shaving ice, I’m trimming fat, I’m packing bags.
I’m picking scabs and I can feel my mind talking to itself, teaching itself, as my gunny nerves get ready.
Time is standing still these days, in this era of preparation.
My organs are working on a secret.
I have grown quiet and withdrawn, not as punishment but as a gift, being the way I must.
I speak to almost no one.
Everything I choose is wholly right and I have no interest in other people’s doings anymore-
all is bound to my experiments, my constant remolding and pushing.
You don’t make friends- you find them. I’ve only ever had a few in my life, but when I found them I knew immediately. There’s a sort of intimacy, a comfort which is felt like a blanket around two strangers who automatically fall in step- they can speak without fear and find joy in discovering all the ways that humans can understand one another. It ends up feeling as if you’ve already known the person for a very long time.
It’s a rare and wonderful thing to find a friend- someone whose intellect, maturity, and decency you can trust. Someone who gets you in all the best ways. Once you find them, there’s no going back: their company becomes indispensable to your own happiness as the more experiences you share, the more you are bonded together. And gradually, their happiness becomes indispensable to yours, like an extension of your own well-being. Protecting their heart becomes your responsibility, because it’s part of your heart now, too.
But like all good things humans are ever blessed enough to blindly stumble upon, we don’t know how to keep a friendship once we’ve got it. We grow complacent and expect that it always will thrive, maybe because we didn’t do anything to earn it in the first place. We underestimate how much we’d suffer if we lost it, because we just don’t think it could happen. But perhaps worst of all, we get selfish.
Humans have an odd tendency towards ownership- we see something we like and, instead of appreciating it for its beauty, we like to slap stickers on things and say “Mine.” This tendency is extended to our friends: we want to be best friends, we want to know that you like us the most, we want your word that you’ll always be there, we want labels, we want assurance. The funny thing is, the best part about friendship is the sublime level of trust that can be achieved, but there’s no chance for that when you’re holding on too tight. I have been guilty of this far too many times not to know the devastating consequences of squeezing the life out of someone you care about.
Miraculously, true friendships seem to have a tremendous bounce-back rate.
It’s like huffing a thick wet wad of pollen,
swallowing a wad of bread dough
that drops like a weight
in your gurgling pit–
This is what the heroes eat?
the heroes are products
It only would’ve lasted
until I knew for sure-
fascination ended by
an answer, at last-
a thirst for the truth
to settle things
in their right place:
The gears would turn,
try to paint it in different lights-
the liar, the troubled, the confused-
which mask would it come down to?
But I didn’t expect
the least interesting mask of all.
The least helpful, least true
this mask of spared feelings-
to dishonor with lies
for fear of the hurt.
“Was any of it real?
Was it always in my head?”
A half-truth implied for protection.
A flimsy excuse to keep using.
I placed no blame on the blameless heart,
but the mouth who said nothing
and kept eating, who kept
accepting gifts, so easily
You were just an open box
I couldn’t pack away
because I didn’t know what
to put in it.
No friend should ever lie
no one who needs
should use so much.
I put a flask
and a pack of cigarettes
and a mask-
welcome to the junkyard.
Sure some things are going wrong
but if I forget about all that
a lot of things are good
I try to exhale all that poison
but the well comes up dry
and if there’s still a couple drops
there’s no harm
and who needs to know?