something caught on fire
near here. sirens come
barreling down the road,
cars pull over to the side:
there is someone to be saved
and we hope they do so
valiantly and swiftly.
there are folks
who are willing to help
put out fires — all
of our houses are ablaze.
perhaps they learned to
effectively, and their
houses stand unafraid.
i splash bucketfuls of
water at the walls all day long.
Archive for the Poetry Category
something caught on fire
“A human being must comprehend what is said universally, arising from many sensations and being collected together into one through reasoning; and this is a recollection of those things which our soul once saw when it traveled in company with god and treated with contempt the things we now say are, and when it poked its head up into what really is.”
Plato, The Phaedrus
He left his horse by the road,
came through the double doors.
I could see swirling dust in his wake.
His boots were sleek black and
his holster was empty. At the stool
next to mine, he took off his hat, set
it on the bar. He asked for scotch. Swirled
it around the glass, looking for something
in the bottom. I don’t know what. I spoke.
You ain’t from around here.
I seen this whole goddamn town from above,
seen you drunk on whisky and seen the day
–fast approaching– when you were too slow
on the draw. What is in this glass of mine
ain’t what is. I seen this whole goddamn world
from above; I been drunker’n hell since,
but I need not drink, I need not eat, for I know
what is true and what ain’t. Your soul ain’t.
But mine. Well, that’s a different matter.
I done ran with the gods, climbed above the
earthly spheres, my throat gasping for air–
dumb as my soul remained; air is not real.
But like all who found out, I reckon, I had to
return to this lie of a place, where ain’t no
life but to seek love and beauty and wisdom
and wait to see them true as truth again.
And I have waited, but ain’t no waitin’
for me no longer. This
is the three-thousandth day.
He never did touch a drop in his glass
and he walked out the swinging doors
as he had come but left his hat on the bar.
I found him at the same place a week from then,
drinking scotch like a man who is to hang, bare head,
his horse outside –two wretched stumps on his back
where no saddle could now rest.
The boys are inside,
banging on drums
and strumming guitars; the
whole place is a mountain of strings
somewhere far from this cold night.
I lean on the outside wall
smoking a cigarette i bummed,
and she paces up the sidewalk toward
me, the happy-new-year sign above my
head –a mockery well into january–
reflects on her face,
like make up no magazine would sell.
She says I give massages
and do i got a donation.
If i had anything in my pockets,
I would buy her some whisky
and pay her to love herself.
Believe it or not, Johnny,
you ran out of time before
you ran out of bullets.
They chased you in Chicago
and across the Mississippi.
You said you’d love me forever
and forever did not take long
I told you I was a decent woman.
I should have never gone with you.
Now you are on the sidewalk,
with a hole in your cheek,
and the whitest shirt you owned —
soaked, as you bleed out.
Now you leave me behind these bars
to know you weren’t, after all,
faster, and stronger, and smarter
than them all.
You knew how to talk to a girl,
Johnny, but you never learned to dodge bullets.
It was not easy to say;
it had never been when the sun was
setting and the train tracks were
void of trains and the streets heavy with headlights
and coffee mugs sat before both of them, chilling
to undrinkable temperatures
and he sough for words he knew
were not specific enough
but had to be said.
So he said it:
I can not be responsible for the broken things
you carry inside your eyes. I can not fix them, either;
I can not carry them for you.
When I look at you there are maps
on the walls of my head – auburn peninsulas
and mountain ranges, roads that curl
like your hair, lakes we always wanted
to swim in: the places we could see together
are at the end of the ocean. But our sea-faring
is a lie. And I am not ready to tell you one.
So when I go today, I go knowing that you are
too strong to chase me and too smart to want to.
We are not to go anywhere together any longer,
and I know I will be sad and you will too but
it will pass. I am sorry about nothing; we have
done nothing wrong. I only regret there are
places that will never see us standing side by side.
Ant-strong and bewildered,
he told us all his secrets.
The heartbreak and the broken glasses,
the drunk masses.
Where do all these soliloquies of yours come from?
“There can be no rest
until we all, for one night,
run through the streets,
drunk and naked,
and remember that our bodies
fit into each other
as easy as the road
can take us far away from this town
if we desire.”
(rest assured: you are the exception)
the mountain will come.
it will seek you out from the beehive mess of your city
and tear a path that leads to your front door.
it will bow its mountain head
and whistle through your window
until you realize you are the exception
and walk outside
and see that the mountain came
and climb it.
i can not say the joy it gives me
to be the bringer of these news.