When AAA Crematory rattled up
in a dilapidated Honda mini-van,
wrestled you onto a gurney,
zipped you in a long vinyl bag,
I nearly said, wait, wait, he’s gotta breathe
but how stupid would that have been?
Your arctic blue wrists and ankles
were adorned with bright paper bracelets
dappled with trees, birds and suns
and “GOOD BYE, GOOD BYE
WE LOVE YOU” in fat crayola.
Your grandkids taped them there
as a hospice doctor pronounced you
man without life; she lifted the long
arc of a blood streaked catheter
emanating from your groin;
and, as a neighbor’s baby shrieked,
snipped it free.
O’ what can she, ‘neath the great
Swaying shadow, what can she say
As he shuffles for churls and gentry
To cackling fiddles and stoked coals?
Chains rattle every dogged step
He growls his guttural need
Offers paws of smeared flowers
To her in that raucous crowd
Howls for his forest, for a world
Without torches and the iron prod.
A mountain dancing for a marigold
He lumbers first this way, then that;
In her face upturned, in her eyes
He sees the way back.
My wares are small, unglazed
Earthen, barely worth a look
At markets and fairs I hawk them at.
Nearby are masterpieces of others.
If they could, my vessels of brevity
And awkward skill would blush
In the midst of gilded beauties.
How can anyone be homeless?
You’re a citizen of this country
You’re a resident of this state
Dweller of this city, a neighbour
Now competing with strays
To sit on a bit of sidewalk
And watch the busy on parade.
Where are tiny corner stores
Selling Green Lantern for a dime?
Candy bars a nickel,
Jawbreakers two a penny?
What of paperboys on bicycles?
Arms cocking and fly casting
Ink smeared Chronicles
Into hedges and milk bottles?
They pedal through pine smoke,
Parks of maple and fire cherry;
An echoing smack of a wooden bat
Tells of one, anxious and weary,
Who’s safe at home at last.
Ten thousand years from now
You, me, he and she will live on
In files of Homeland Security.
Posterity knows my cold cereals
Books I borrowed, still overdue
That the Carp is my favourite team
My fetish for Father Christmas suits
And Bulgarian whipped cream.
Whatever we say, think or do
Scrolls endlessly before them
As they wonder how in hell
Did they ever let this happen?
“We die. We become nothing.”
I say, no, there’s no such thing as no thing.
Space is not barren, nor empty, one cubic
centimeter of vacuum brims, teems with lush
immensities of light and time and matter
for a billion stars for a hundred million years.
Within each atom of stone, each bit of breath,
woven within new light and smiling providence,
wheels of causality sing that death and life
are intrinsic to the other, there is no annihilation.
We live on by creating value and valuing creation.