On the train to DC to visit Bek, a man came from a few rows up and across the aisle to tap my shoulder and hold up a screen that read, “Will you help me?” He is deaf and needed to call his case-worker, Mrs. Allen, to let her know that he is on the train. I called her and she told me that it was okay for him to go back to his apartment. I typed her reply and as I got up to return to my seat he leaned in and told me, “I just lost my family in an explosion.” I had been reading the treasured Anita Dore-edited poetry anthology and in that moment, Shelley’s ‘To the Moon.’ The moon must be Jesus in this language, but what can I tell Darryl?
Darryl Stevens fixes computers. He types that it’s crazy. A woman stole a computer and she was on facebook and Darryl was over fixing the thing. The cops tracked her down while he was there. He also helps find child predators and those of the criminal mindset who post online how to make bombs for people who want to commit suicide in a dramatic fashion. “Fit for TV.” Darryl’s got kids. His oldest is a teenage daughter, and he worries about her—them all—with all the crazy shit that goes down in the mind of the computer. Viruses!
He lost his father, mother, and sister two weeks ago when someone turned on the stove and had to learn the hard way about the gas leak. But who knows if it’s actually hard for the ones who died? According to Dickinson, “To die—takes just a little while—They say it doesn’t hurt—It’s only fainter by degrees—And then—it’s out of sight.” And that’s right on according to Coral the Dancer of Death and the 8880 angel, too. It may be hard only for the living. But can I say this to him? Darryl is about to cry. There are some tears there, waiting. We pray. He cannot hear me but we both feel it. Is there a better way for two children of God passing from one time and place to another to spend together? But later I sip some cranberry juice and write for him a prayer:
Darryl Stevens, you are in so much pain
I feel it as it leaves my chest and goes out to you, my heart
But you are wise and good to give to the good God,
Of Whom your family is now part!
Not only every stifling ache
That this sad accident did cause,
But also give to Him, Christ Jesus,
All your gifts, blessings, and flaws.
Dear Brother, through Him and with Him,
I see you rejoicing, Dear Brother,
I see you rejoicing in God’s heaven,
With your sister, father, and mother.
Later, I’m reminded I do not like Kipling, the word ‘Dengue,’ and so-called colon cleanses, in which the colonizers still go out and be parasites. Actually, DC left me with a tightness in my uterus: the feeling that I am not fit to reproduce among the cream of the crop of this great country. They were all well-dressed and likely believe that happiness is for sale, or at least can be acquired with enough education or by who you know. The climbing gym was packed with these go-getters, apparently interested in climbing not only social ladders.
And yet, when Bek and I talked about the enlightened mathematician Perlman, who solved the donut problem, and wondered whether religious people could be mathematicians and I saw a correlation that if you believed in God, then you would believe in perfection and would gravitate toward a perfect language; she exclaimed, “Wow. How élitist!” I don’t see it that way. God is something greater than any of us; it’s not a matter of being a higher human being than another. To penetrate the asymptote is to surrender oneself and take up the faith. Therein lies (and flies!) the quantum world of poetry. Bek’s friend Chudi’s brother asked me, “Why poetry?” I became defensive and incredulous, but couldn’t articulate an answer. I realized then the great benefit of home-field advantage. Away, I’ve lost almost every match. But homeless, I shall realize the grand illusion of the game and no longer feel I need to defend anything.
Oh God, help me to be strong in you and love these people despite our vastly different ways. Help me to be one who edifies.
It’s getting harder and harder to recognize the world. Which is good. It means renewal is working. Soul care. It’s what we learn as we mature out of the old way, where it was all about the survival of children and nations.
Our singing was raw. We hadn’t seen each other in over a year. Our parting had not been of harmony, but our meeting this time was the sweet kind of cold. The first day of February, I was stuffy from a delayed train-ride, and she from a virus. But I picked up the guitar and we tried it anyway. To be sisters again and sing like we hadn’t lived through fifteen years of war and cold. She sipped lemon tea and I, zinfandel. Our throats though could never warm to the good spirit that lets you make your own music. Our only hope in this long winter was to sing songs where the spirit had been before.
I miss my sister, but we’re not young anymore, and it’s not young love. I hope it can be the deep kind. The kind that is anonymous and can solve the donut problem and with a shared laugh make it suddenly a poem and a panacea for torn-up families, with or without sprinkles on top.
I think too of my old friend “Windows” and how it hurts to lose a friend for no other reason than Fate like a steel wedge driven between, forcing us out into our own. But, “‘Beauty is truth, truth beauty,’ that is all ye know on earth and all ye need to know.” Perhaps we old friends are still bound each to each by natural piety. Like Wordsworth wishes of his days. Then we’d know the wedge not as steel that cuts, but as an illusion, like the spaces around the fractal, and could be friends eternal. He still teaches me so much. Pray Lord, bless and watch over his family.
On the west-bound train now, Poe asks, “Why preyest thou thus upon the poet’s heart, Vulture, whose wings are dull realities?” Because the Vulture is as colonization, the penis of a rapist. And perhaps questions are as seamen, or semen. Ever going forth to seek that which will complete them. Just now, over the loudspeaker on this superbowl evening, “Baltimore Ravens 21, San Francisco 49ers 3.” So it’s a well-enough-intentioned invasion, based on assumptions rampant as rabbits in the forever-progressive business world-after-God that we all little barely-beings want and need culture sperm—football, in this case—and whatever else is profitable and increases our ‘standard of living’ and can take the place where God used to be. Am I trying to convince anyone else? No. But this is what an oppressed feeling looks like.
Here’s a terrifying question, “For what has man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his own soul?” –Matthew 16: 25-26
Peace Question War, Peace Question War
I cannot rest
When on this quest
Asking, ‘How did the dot get here?’ and more.
I see it is best
To rise up from the test
Something I’ve never done before!
We are now scattered abroad in the forest,
But here are our words, know I love
You dearly all.
We alienate ourselves just by writing about it, by being so curious about boundaries, seen and unseen. We don’t need to do work of building borders with questions for bricks. When they are finished we will just take them down one question at a time. It is a pointless hell. There is one great answer to them all and we are given the right to live it. Ginsberg soon reminds me in ‘A Supermarket in California’ that it is okay, nay, good to have dear friends. Especially those of the common language.
© 2013, Amaya Engleking