It Ends, Of Course (Written October 10, 2013)

It Ends, Of Course

 

It ends, of course, in the slaughterhouse.

Cows, horses, chickens, pigs, human

Beings too, share the same fate.

 

We have little choice in the matter.

Under cover of dark, at the gate,

Two men, one on each side, lock arms

 

With you, and walk you to the outskirts

Of town. They have their charms,

So that you almost come to believe

 

That it’s you who’s in control,

But that’s only to deceive

The fool in you. Whether you turn left

 

Or right you always arrive

At the same place. Gloomy, bereft

Of hope, the earth is clogged

 

With the dead, who come in all

Shapes and sizes. In a sort of bog

You lie down, your head

 

Comfortably against a belly, or a thigh.

The men have covered their faces. Dead

Or alive, it’s all the same. Is there anything

 

You want to say, they ask, with a smile.

You try to think of something.

Too late! One of them draws a long, thin

 

Knife from his back pocket. Not

Waiting, he plunges it in.

It’s quickly over, and the only sound

 

That we hear is a soft sigh

From your lips, which grow round

And fat like a tumor.

Like Him Afflicted (Written October 9)

Like Him Afflicted

 

That as myself could pity him

As myself could see myself

In years to come, like him

 

Afflicted, like him unable

To find the word, the dim

Light, as under a cloud,

 

Hiding, rather than disclosing,

Better calibrated to shroud

And confuse than to reveal

 

And make whole again. How like

Him as myself, as to conceal

The progress of the illness

 

And to keep my thoughts

To myself, in the stillness

Of the night, in the pity of myself.

Can You Help Me? (Written October 8)

Can You Help Me?

 

I’m his grandfather, but I don’t hear

Very well. Can you help me?

Ask him to repeat what he said,

 

But more slowly. About his mother.

She lay in the grass with her red

Dress on. It doesn’t make any sense.

 

Ask him, where is she now?

I’m a little worried, a little tense.

It’s not like her. She promised

 

She’d give me a call. I stayed

By the phone, but I missed

What she said. Ask him how

 

She looked. Was she scared?

As far as I know, up to now

She’s been just fine.

 

But everyone, I suppose,

At one time or another,

Runs into trouble.

Mrs. Ailey (Written October 7)

Mrs. Ailey

 

Writing in large letters on the blackboard,

The teacher spelled out what she wanted

To be called. Mrs. Ailey with an e and a y

 

If you please. Any questions, she asked,

And twenty-two hands, all female, shot up. Why

Do they call it pregnant, when all it looks

 

Like is she’s fat? It means she’ll soon

Have a baby. Now open your books

To page eighty. But please, missus,

 

Tell us how it comes out. Head first?

I’ll tell you this, it takes more than kisses.

It takes blood, sweat, and tears.

 

How long, Mrs. Ailey, with an e and a y,

Will you be our teacher? How many years?

As long as it takes. We don’t know

 

Much, because all Miss Hopkins ever talked

About is how bad she hurts. She showed

Us where too. That, my dears,

 

Is about to change, I assure you.

All will be revealed, have no fears.

Now let’s get on with it.

Nothing Tugged Back (Written October 6)

Nothing Tugged Back

 

It was so small I didn’t even feel it.

When I tugged at the line, nothing

Tugged back. The only reason I reeled

 

It in was so that we could move

To another spot, where the yield

Might be more abundant. It was a beautiful

 

Striped bass, but under the legal limit.

After some thought we did the dutiful

Thing and returned it to the water,

 

Alive, only slightly damaged, the mouth

In need of repair, like a daughter

Who decides she has nothing more

 

To say, and retreats into her own

Private world, in search of that inner core

Where she might feel she amounts to something.

Nothing Shoddy About the Girls (Written October 5)

Nothing Shoddy About the Girls

 

Some of them had spotty trunks,

Others had plain red, white, or black,

Still others wore pieces skimpy as jock straps.

 

The girls had something different in mind.

Nothing shoddy about the girls, but maps

Of the contours of their tender new bodies,

 

Focused on particulars of presentation

Rather than the boast of what rowdies

They could be if they wanted to be.

 

Wasn’t I like them when I was

Their age? Didn’t I also want to see

Myself in the mirror and believe

 

I was what I was, and had no need

To apologize? Even to conceive

Of such a thing was to take a step back.

Wild Horses (Written October 4)

Wild Horses

 

That was the horse looking at me again

Because the way I was standing was too noisy.

I turned my head so that my gaze

 

Fell upon the brown, watery eye.

I was not afraid. Half-crazed

I had climbed the steep hill

 

In search of the wild horses,

Abandoned from logging days, that still

Roam the mountainside. What was surprising

 

Was not the horse’s apparent tameness

But the silence of his coming over the rise,

And the way he advanced straight toward me,

 

As if to present himself to me, for my inspection,

And to ask, What is it you want of me?

Then five more came over the hill, like a posse.

He Looked Around the Room (Written October 3)

He Looked Around the Room

 

As if he were smearing on make-up

Or rubbing an itchy patch of skin,

Unable to think of anything to say,

 

He looked around the room,

And saw that there was no way

He could please everyone.

 

How long will they stand for it,

He wondered. The longer he waited

The less likely they were to listen.

 

One by one they began to move

Outside, onto the balcony, not hiding

Their disappointment. It would be wiser,

 

He concluded, to say nothing at all,

Rather than risk having the wool

Pulled over his eyes, yet again.

The Double (Written October 2)

The Double

 

The snow continued to fall

But the thought of turning back never

Entered his mind. At the end of the street,

 

And across the tracks, was a different

World, where, at long last, he would meet

His double, the one who had failed

 

To make something of himself,

Who had murdered and been jailed,

But clung to this last, feeble hope

 

For redemption. But what could he,

Who had fled the dominion of dope,

Who had made a life for himself, free

 

From the endless strife that had always

Plagued his double like a swarm of bees,

What could he do to set things right?

The Strain of Never Knowing (Written October 1)

The Strain of Never Knowing

 

Always there in that soft corner,

Quiet, alone, barely visible,

Tired of the bickering,

 

Waiting for night to come,

Waiting for the snickering

Voices to fall

 

Silent, the thump thump thump

Of the music, like a ball

Careening in the cage of the brain,

 

Beyond what any sane person

Should have to endure, the strain

Of never knowing what to believe,

 

The absence of all hope,

The desire to relieve

The pressure, fizzle out.