I don’t consider myself a poet, and certainly not a prose poet. But after the events in Connecticut a couple days ago, I felt the need to say something, and a standard essay, rant, or whatever couldn’t really handle it. So here’s the first poem I’ve written in a long while. I hope it makes you think.
I looked to the road for America’s soul, but I found only footprints and gin,
And the remnants that last from a shadowy past that stop us before we begin.
Then I looked to the sea for America’s soul, and found it washed up on the beach,
At the end of a stream that’d been lost in the gleam of a new, although ancient dream.
I dreamed we were the new tears of Job, rolling down the Hudson, the Mississippi, the Columbia
To collect ourselves in the Gulf of Madness that echoes in eternity’s throes.
We followed ourselves in our tears, eager to be drowned, sweeping through whirlwinds, waterspouts
And the uncanny resemblances of life that we find hidden in the walls of canyons,
The peaks of mountains, and on the cathedral spires of our nation.
We reached the breaking, reached a cliff, and we prepared for the plunge.
No more pain, no more questions, forever rushing forward, never looking back, never stopping.
We rushed into forests of memory, but there were no golden leaves of autumn, no fresh buds of spring.
We only found the pines remaining, the evergreens of winter, buried under mountains
Of forgotten gifts that will never be opened.
Nothing remained there but grief. We moved on.
How can this all be in the land of the free?
What is this new horror?
I hear screaming.
I hear the wailing of Rachel again, fleeing from Herod’s burning horsemen.
It is familiar.
We break for the river, run to reach it ahead of the madman in pursuit.
His eyes are set, unyielding, unmoved.
Waiting is sudden, comfort is slow.
Winter is here, the world is flooding and we live by the river.
Will we drown?
Do we rush down the old paths of cold oblivion?
Disappear into the nothing?
Or shall we reach out to hope?
Can we halt this madness, this cancer, this fiend?
We are born to this very duty, chosen for this task.
Do not look to your neighbor, he is looking to you!
His eyes have shed too many tears and he tires of deaf arguments
He begs to be heard, to be listened to. He is lost.
You must find him!
Do not lose him when he needs you most! Do not linger!
Too often have you pointed your fingers while refusing to raise your hands to help!
He is drowning while you play at games and taunt him!
Let us turn from the drums of war that beat and rumble and burn their way into our hearts.
They are too often followed by dirges.
We are called to hope while still in darkness, to shine in the shadows.
Look up! The sky is opening.
We are not accountable to the rain!
We live in the sun and strive for it!
We will not be brought low again by adversity. We shall rise, like the sun, and overcome it.
And though the cosmos rage around us, we are steadfast.
We cry, we mourn, but we look beyond the veil, look beyond death, for there are indeed lands beyond.
And those lands are the lands we seek to rest in, for there, sorrow is vanquished and death is defeated!
Its demise is sure and certain!
And it is here at the edge of it all that I find America’s soul at its moment of choice,
Its moment of breaking down or rising up.
It stands, straddling the darkness and light, unsure of itself.
Choruses echo at it, call out to it by name and it waivers, hearing them out.
I beckoned to it. Called it. Come in from the rain!
You are not lost, you can be safe here!
I saw its eyes, streaming with tears, reaching, searching, clawing for footholds in the slope.
The voices behind grew louder and the footing weaker. It struggled mightily.
Its footsteps slowed to a halt and after what seemed like hours, it grew content there in the middle,
Between darkness and light in the grey shades of ambiguity.
I called again, it looked up at me.
It saw beyond my eyes to the waking world and wailing out a siren song,
Spread its ghostly mouth into a gaping maw of pain. It teetered still.
I covered my ears and found myself borne away.
I woke in my bed as though back from the dead
And heard sirens on Dickenson Drive
And I knew that the choice is in America’s voice
As to if we will fall or survive.