Thursday, August 26, 2010

Words Failed Me

Amid the catastrophic year- no book
no bible, speech or phrase would hear
your pain. No prayer, no 23rd psalm
would lay you down to sleep or be
your balm. The poems you’d held up to your chest
so long as living beings bringing warmth
and tidings from the lands of friendly others
were as if written in another tongue.

You who labored diligent as any
twenty-year old might whose mind and body
battled for the spotlight. You who filled
five-subject spiral notebooks with your scribbles,
and wrote the world around you down on index
cards- quotes that you were sure would soon
sink in and leave you lifted up, inspired.
You who made a wallpaper of letters
and thought your favorite writers to be friends.

Where were they when the blood filled up
the bowl? What kind of friends leave friends
so unconsoled? When the phone call came
the lump was not benign and where were they?
Smugly silent, lost upon the page.
The collapse of roof and ceiling in the night,
the miserable fight, the time spent curled
in a fetal ball in tears, the waiting room
of Chester County hospital- all words
had disappeared. And so (we thought) you learned:

let the books be burned before the people.
May the alphabet be swallowed in a rage.
Let us be judged by flesh and fear and action.
Believe in God or science, trust yourself,
lean on your tribe, but leave the black and white
to those less wise. Words are bad friends, they make
a fool of you, they plunder, lie, betray.
Nowhere in the fine print will you find
what you are seeking: no truth, no meaning.

So if you find yourself one early evening-
late in summer, sun escaping fast
behind the neighbors’ house- drawn back in
some sentimental fashion to the page,
a place you once heard whispers of a song...
if you seek solace, or a place to place
your heartbreak, or escape to, just remember.
You could start writing then. You could be wrong.


schoolmarmalade said...

Holy. shit. Did you write that? You just stabbed me in the chest, like death-grip squeezed my heart and eyeballs all at once. Have you notified The New Yorker of this poem's existence? If not you should do so immediately.

Oscar said...

I don't know what happened to my comment. It didn't post. It was:

Oh. My Dear. You can, indeed, write!

I second your sister's opinion.