Right Turn on Red

Foggy morning ride to work,
visibility near down to zero,
I crept up to the red light.
In times like these much care
is needed—death can come
in a flash, and we know it

will come, someday—but since
I had other plans I pulled out
cautiously, turning right,
and suddenly saw in my windshield
an obscured face, large eyes
round with fear,

and it was only me.
And it was only me.

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ICU

Every room the same–
ten 12 x 12 tiles this way,
ten 12 x 12 tiles that way–
perfect squares; identical

rolling beds; chrome IV trees
dripping sap at nearly

the same slow rate;
same worn white
cabinets,

storing the same supplies;
every room housing

an indistinguishable
fear of death.

The Chase

           Squeezed tight
in the corner

           blood
beating hard

           in my temples,
a strange mixture

           of delight
and fear,

           the thrill
of the chase

           or of being chased,
these childhood games

           sharpening
survival instinct,

           skills essential
in this universe

           where everything
is out to get us.

           Perhaps this is why
I still always sit

           with my back
against the wall.

Christian Wiman: I Sing Insomnia

I sing insomnia
                          to the minor devils
prowling alleys
                         of my mind
loneliness’s lipsticked leer
                                            fear
no fix can ease
                         envy sipping bile
I make a lullaby
                           to make myself
into a sleeper
                      of the faith
awake
             my little while
alive
         without a why
                    –Christian Wiman, from Every Riven Thing

Nightmares

Last week, my friend and fellow poet Henry Clemmons posted a poem about nightmares. This afternoon when I sat down to write his poem was still in my head, so I thought I’d run with it. Thanks Henry; and please, poets, send your week’s thoughts to dVerse OpenLinkNight!

Nightmares
The night-fears return,
a little green man
with clicking teeth
and omnipotent eyes,
fingers pungent red
gripping a corner, any corner,
leveraging a feline pounce
to send me running,
running, I cannot see
my unsteady footfall
pounding on
and on —
terror, stale-tasting
like motionless basement air,
and if it weren’t for nightmares
we’d want to close our eyes
and sleep all

the live-long day.

Alone

Tonight at dVerse, our hostess, Victoria Slotto, invites us to write something with voice, passion–something about which we are motivated, inspired, excited, or outraged. This one is not really up to those standards, but it is about an event that held deep feeling for me at that time of my childhood. And I think it does ring with my voice, such as it is (that is, I think it’s typical of the kind of stuff I usually write!). Come share with us!

Alone
That blazing afternoon
when I chased an ill-thrown ball
into the front yard, and saw
your shoes beside our car’s
open door, your upturned
purse, and you were nowhere,
and what can you expect
from a boy weaned on
Armageddon and the Imminent
Return of Almighty Christ?
In the twinkling of an eye,
we were told, and the blood
rushed to my hair-tips, and I looked
for you, would not be comforted.
And later, you came home and told us
how you saw little Randy
running across the street, careless,
and the black low-slung sports car
screeching, flinging him into the air,
and before he came tumbling down
you had dropped your purse, run out
of your shoes, and he would be
all right, just a few broken bones,
but I thought you were gone
to be with Jesus, one taken
and the other one left,
and never again have I felt
so alone.