Poem 28

S. Wirshing (for my late uncle one and a half  years past)
I
There is a good man in every half good man
A savable piece of every scoundrel.
I bet you would believe me if you knew every one of them
I swear to you I know every one of them.
20 pieces.
10 pieces
No pieces left to share with you,
I’m sorry but you’ll have to go
Come back later.
Come back when I have more pieces.
Some people come across in pieces.
They have little to say to you,
Almost nothing to say to you
But you cannot hear them anyway
They are speaking on a totally different level
You are below them…
You’ve run out of pieces.
Fear me not for I speak the truth.
I speak and you listen, that is how this works.
Listen.
I could tell you every batting average there ever was
For the major leagues… and the minor leagues…
Or any league for that matter…
I’ve a head for numbers you see,
Not much else…
Hmmmmm Hmmmm
I have hands and I have fingers.
I have fists full of fingers
Fists not strong enough to hold my own
There are others fists who defend me…
They defend me in those times I need them
Others fingers…
Useless as pieces… perhaps they are pieces of me.
I save boxes and uniforms. Forget
To wash my clothes and wander
Around as if I have no places to be
But there is a place I can almost remember
Hmmmmmm Hmmmmmm
II
Lipless voices tell of order.
There is order. Others order.
They go to work and do their bidding
I watch them because I cannot keep the steps myself
I am so awful at dancing. They tell me so.
All of them racing pacing… lost.
Shall I Be Lost?
My brothers tell me so, it will be.
This is the building of a man. This is the end of all men.
Were we not once part of the whole
A whole larger than our daily struggle.
A lifelong struggle that felt less like struggling and more like living.
Not at all like work.
Watch him… he will do as he is told
You treat him like a dog and he will be one.
He will be your pet and you the master if you allow it.
And he will shit on the rug and beg for praise if you allow it…
But he is a man. A man not of reason but if ritual
And aren’t we all
Aren’t we all…
Hmmmmmm Hmmmmmmm
The crack in the earth is rifting.
The system is splitting
What of you now.
What of you now.
What of your children and your mother.
Are they split from you.
The system. Oh! The system.
To crumble so easily,
Why did we try to climb a ladder so brittle…
Had we only known…
Oh I think we knew.
The man offering his cup to you
Do you fill it with useless change
Or do you hate him?
III
Pitty not those who cannot pull themselves up.
Their minds of different matter.
Loosely coiled. Easily molded.
They will outlive you.
They will forget the terror of life.
Unbothered by the drone of an uneven heartbeat
Of the fear of commitment that will take his brothers.
Ignorant of pain and poverty.
A rubber man, malleable
Ductile.
Strong.
“Help! Help! He’s fallen from the tree!”
“You have to run home!”
“I Can’t”
“Hurry He’s Bleeding”
I’m fine, I’m fine… It’s just pretend
“Quickly! Tell mother!”
“Does it hurt?”
Why would it hurt—No
“Can you stand”
“Of Course He Can’t Stand! The Bone’s Out!”
I could stand—why can’t I stand—I can stand
“Close Your Eyes, it will be over soon.”
I’m fine, I’m fine… It’s just pretend
No sticks nor stones can break my bones
No part of me less powerful
And if you try to take my life
Your quest will be unfruitful.
We were children then.
IV
A spice bold brewing
Bites at my tongue when I have him
Let’s not be hasty.
You molasses siren.
Seduction of the trachea begins all
Too slowly to capture in one shutter.
Elixir. I am transformed. Oh yes.
I am normal. So.
Sip by sip the heard evens.
The syrup settles at the bottom.
We are all meeting at the middle,
You could not pick me out from the crowd.
Invisible in the miasma of a lingering odor.
On the lips of all the filling bodies.
Speaking muttering, dragging on.
We could be saying the same thing.
Perhaps we look the same to a stranger.
Choose he says to me Choose
Would you make a man choose between life and death?
Could you make a man choose between his happiness or yours.
But there is no question in my mind.
You are my brother. You know what is best.
You take care of me and make sure I have food and shelter.
You are my brother, I trust you.
You wrap me In blankets and tell me stories I will remember,
You are my brother and you will guide me.
You will keep your word if I forget the bottles.
You are my father and I love you.
V
Piece by piece they remove every part of me.
It begins with the colon.
Inch by inch until it is gone.
But I’ve never seen a colon, so I don’t really understand
What it does or why I need it. Why I had one in the first place.
But I have one, yes, and now it is gone.
Maybe in a green jar with pickle juice
Next to half born babies and blinded eyes.
In a dark closet where it wonders how it got there
I don’t know…
I don’t need to, the cancer is gone.
VI
I get up in the morning and get ready for work.
First a shave—because by brother told me I had to—
Next I get into uniform and walk into the cold.
I take the bus rain or shine. It is never late, and neither am I.
When I get to work there is a man that greets me.
I say Hello! He likes it when I say hello.
He laughs and I laugh. I wonder what he does all day.
Less wonderful than what I do all day.
I walk around the casino past the gamblers and the smoke
Past the double doors and into the light.
I go into the parking lot and pick up trash.
That darn wind blows all sorts of things there.
Sometimes I work in the rain, other times the sun is unbearable.
But I love work because every day is the same.
And I like when I wake up and I know exactly what is going to happen
How could anyone live otherwise, What a waste of a life.
When I get home I make myself a big plate of pasta.
I always get meatballs and marinera. I wash my dish and
Head to bed. Shower and put on sunscreen because my
Sister told me the sun is harsh and I need protection.
VII
Some men live in circles. Others live in lines.
They may cross, but a line man
Will never apprehend a circle man,
They are too different to conceive each other.
Hindu and Catholic. Spots and Striped.
Always the other is mistaken
Always the other lives wrong.
Watch a line man. Watch him.
A foreward arrow.
He cannot see today because he is looking at tomorrow
Almost blinded by tomorrow he tramples today to get there.
What a foolish man.
Look, Look! The circle man is stuck.
Around and around he goes. Wandering aimlessly
Again and again. What monotony!
What a terrible fool the circle tracer.
What a wasted life.
VIII
When you tell a circle man he has a few months to live he doesn’t understand.
Like a child who has lived only a few years and cannot conceive that winter will return again
And again until he is dead under the winter.
When they told him I imagine he smiles.
He thanks them for their time—like my father told him—
And gets on the phone to share the news.
A child of seven has no concept of a month.
A child of seven has lived under a score.
What useless numbers they waste on a man of seven.
So may more numbers are filling his head:
Birthdays, anniversaries, baseball stats, ages.
What use is time to a man of circles. Every day is a new day.
The last is simply an echo.
IX
When you don’t know what is going to happen
A funny thing happens
It doesn’t.
We get sick because we are told we are sick
We die because when we age we believe it is time.
But a clean slate will write nothing.
With no words on the page a man can be any novel,
Any thing but those that came before.
When april came he visited looking healthier than ever.
By june he was laughing so loudly the phone-voice filled the house
In august when I left I mailed him beads from the football game.
He wore them to work the next day.
Two years ago a man in a white coat who didn’t know anything
Started spitting numbers about a baseball shaped tumor in his lungs.
I don’t know about lungs or tumors but I love baseball
I don’t know about tumors or lungs either. I suspect no one does.
X
Too many tears will be shared in a white room tonight.
Travel sized shampoos and lotions will fill the silence.
Lies will be told to his mother. But she is smarter than we believe,
And has survived her own share of refrigerators.
Fear me not for I speak the truth. There is no man in that room that will
Fear less than the man with the breathing tubes.
Whose lies are the strongest foundation of his life.
When you believe you are safe you are safe—no matter how high the tree-fall.
My mother will laugh with him about the meatball—we call his lung-sucking mass.
His eyes will light up. He will believe it is a party—or worse, a wedding.
He well chuckle heartily at the jokes made and think nothing of the cancer
And will survive to work another day…
Hmmmmmm Hmmmmm

–ECW

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