I wish you would smile back,
I wish you would talk back,
I wish you would notice me,
I wish you would be a train wreck,
Is the contest to be known of, so strict
That you cannot stand to be futile?
You hide behind fashion,
And smiles laced with lies.
Underneath is a body,
But it is locked.
I cannot pierce the surface,
I too am locked,
To fearful to crack open
Through the veneer, the spit shine
Covering our festering sickness.
We sing songs about grace,
A need for saving.
We stand beside each other,
And I hate you.
You are my true enemy,
The thorns in my path,
The salt in my wound.
I can’t stand to be in the same room as you,
To share the same air.
I wonder why I’m here.
I question every step I took
in this direction.
To this gathering.
My enemies are just like me.
I brought the cold air inside my house with me.
I am alone now and my enemy is here.
I can’t shake him.
He’s still here because he’s in my soul.
It was a bitter, hard, hatred all along.
It was mine.
All I can do is ask for a melting.
For we are all criminals.
The only light on is the kitchen table ceiling lamp.
Stromboli from Jimmy’s dad at Sal’s
warming in the oven.
Rain and cold swarms outside the walls.
It’s stinging winter kept at bay.
Inside, around a table, we join hands,
Our arms make a pretzel circle,
Mine cold, gripped by ones that
In the spirit of
each other is all we have.
"Good evenin’ God.
We are all down here
Enjoying the blessings you have given us.
Keep us safe. Keep us….
In….Jesus name we pray.
No knowledge or reality
of a food blessing have I known
To be a reflection of my own heart
Such as a woman praying
In her dripping county drawl,
having had several shots of fireball whiskey,
wearing a “Meowy Christmas” sweater,
having such human breath which
breathes a hunger for bodies to gather
around warm food.
With existence, is born such
starvation for love and food and goodness.
Which I know now is God.
You are the heroine of a Japanese saga.
You chased the warrior Musashi through a thousand dense pages
of ancient countryside and swordsmanship lessons.
You fell on your own swords for him.
You waited for him under a bridge in the snow and rain.
You cried hundreds of tears for him, felt feverish throbbings of your heart for him.
You walked miles just to be in his general vicinity,
Only to find yourself in quickly passing miracles of his presence.
Otsu, he would not even have his name or his life if it weren’t for you.
You, dear woman, were the one who untied him from that fateful tree,
In the beginning, when he was still a boyish Takuan.
I must confess that I skipped pages to find reprieve amid the breathless waiting that comes with the anticipation for two lovers to convene.
The night you were with Musashi and the shadows on the paper thin walls danced in the night lamp light, was too short lived for your aching heart and mine.
We both love men who love their swords first, too high up in the clouds of nobility, blind to the gritty beauty of ordinary human life.
I finally found you on the third to last page,
Sick and sobbing, begging Musashi to call you his wife, and then sitting on a shore, watching him vanish into the horizon on a boat bound for his most infamous, crowning, other-worldly fight.
He left to follow something other than you. Call it ambition, accomplishment.
You were there, dying for him, never reconciling your life to anything.
Otsu, why did you follow him so hard?
Why did you chain yourself to something so poisonous to you?
But isn’t that the end of all our desire -
Catching a glimmer of a love that reaches to the momentary depths
And chasing it to the death,
Until you realize at the end that it was a mirage all along -
Appearing like quenching, rippling waters,
But dry to the bone.
Happiness is in the quiet, ordinary things. A table, a chair, a book with a paper-knife stuck between the pages. And the petal falling from the rose, and the light flickering as we sit silent.