This poem is really just a general reflection on death and survival, which are terms that we as survivors must often grow much too accustomed to. This sequence is for two of my friends, Cruz Iran Garcia and Alaina Hughes. Both were tremendous hearts. Great and noble souls. Both students with stellar records in both life and academics. Both gone before their time. Both remembered by those of us lucky enough to remember.
No one gets through this world unscathed,
my father whispered like a cool prayer,
waiting in the Cadillac outside as they wheeled
her sweet brown eyes into the funeral home.
The last time he saw her,
he took her to play pool in Alphabet City,
where the neon lights danced
like little angels against the back wall.
She wasn’t the best pool player.
She hadn’t gotten her hands steady yet,
but he told her: that’ll come in time.
If my father had known that she was
as sad as she was, he would have taken her
outside past the sea of cigarette butts,
to where you can look uptown to where
the lights glow with such a blue density
that it’s like you’re looking on from the Land of Nod.
Instead, he took her into the back of the bar,
where they hustled two cities boys for money
and the truly deranged souls stare
sober-eyed at a Saturday night or dance
around the miniature jukebox, a waltz,
for christake’s, while the world’s burning.
Two weeks later, we stand in the viewing room,
where the light shines through the stained glass
and makes the whole room glow.
I’ll admit that as we get older,
and the world continues its sad, sick twists of the heart,
there are less places I look for answers,
but man, if you saw her eyes dancing,
drifting through another Saturday night,
waiting for the lone singer to come onto the stage,
with a blonde guitar strapped against skinny shoulders,
and sing about home until it’s not something you think
that you even want any longer, you’d know
that the pain we pass through is the closet
we ever come to any sort of afterlife.
Late winter, when it’s dusk around here
the houses that lie in the cornfields
begin to turn on their orange lights.
You can drive all night with the windows down
and they will not need us any more
than the memory of the nights before.
So we curse and swear to be remembered,
but you can not write your name
in the dust any longer so I will do it for you.
You could sit in the passenger seat,
look out over the muddy ground,
and discover that the snow that covered
and choked the earth disappeared just a few
after you left this earth, this disastrous place.
You would see that the powerlines
still run, coarse, darkened and dead
until you put your hand to it.
You’re a woman in a yellow dress,
or maybe you’re the wind.
Because the wind, like us, needs a shape
or else it gets lost like the song that children sing on a street where no one lives.
I cannot remember
when spring seemed less than a miracle,
when my body did not hurt from the dark of winter,
when summer began like anything but a dream.
There is something beautiful about what we are promised will return,
though what is gone forever is equally beautiful.
You are gone now. So here’s what I see:
the street silent, a slight wind, and
an orange light shining in starlight for no one.