Saturday, September 20, 2014

Scrapbook


They tell you to go towards the light,
but they don't tell you that when you do,
you will eventually come to the source
of the light--a large searchlight in a K-Mart
parking lot. Only it's not to get some last-
minute deals on tube socks or toaster
ovens, lest you get to wherever
you hope to get to, only to find yourself
with fetid feet and unable to make a decent
grilled cheese. No, the only thing visible
is a man sitting behind a table, in front
of which the dead have formed a queue,
as they learned to do so readily when alive.
"Now we'll see what's what," they murmur.
"This fellow will get us sorted." When
you reach the front at last, the man
will take down your name--no, as it
turns out, he will take up your name,
his pen lifting from the page each syllable
as you say it, along with the names
of everything you've ever loved: every
pet, your morning cappuccino, summers
by the lake, the way you had, every year,
of pasting the first fallen autumn leaf
on a clean white page.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Belief

I visit the little religious school on a sunny Thursday 
morning when it seems quite possible to believe 
in God. The staff and students all call me "brother" 
and there are many smiles and knee-length skirts, 
and each teenager carries his or her scriptures to class. 

When they start Intro to Composition, it is with a a prayer 
and an inspirational thought ( "Hope of Things to Come"), 
and then the teacher, Sister Willburn, lectures 
on the importance of evaluating sources with a critical eye, 
using, as an example, the recent study showing 
that children who read the bible are also more likely 
to believe in dragons and unicorns and schools of magic. 

After, as I sit in my car making notes for my evaluation, 
a confab of laughing female students walks by, 
and I hear one of them point me out to the others 
as the old pervert jacking off, getting his jollies, 
hoping their plaid skirts might billow up in the breeze. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Wish You Were Here


When the mailman comes round wearing his blue shorts and knee socks and hiking boots, when he is late and puffing and sweat has stained his shirt and the brim of his hat, when he hands us our few envelopes and direct mailers and asks if we might spare a glass of water, or maybe lemonade if we have it, we sit him down in a wicker rocker on the porch under the ceiling fan and ply him with iced tea, though we needn't have bothered, coaxing out the stories in his day: how the pit bull over on Eastwood held a doll's head in its mouth, how a lady named June up on Mill Creek sat out on her lawn chair when he came by every day, making it clear she wore nothing but the white robe with the Hilton 'H' over one breast, and how he has collected something like two hundred postcards over the years, from all around the world, almost all of them from people who had left other people behind and then wished they were there, which was the thing that got him moving again at last, down the sidewalk, a flurry of air conditioning ads fluttering out of his bag like White Admiral butterflies.

You don't think I do

but I see you standing outside the door until you have dried and softened your face into one fit for the children inside, see what it took for you to pull open that door, that heavy door, and step through, push through into all the clamor, the clamber of questions, and, before your own heart is nearly seated or settled, how you reach theirs with a few soft words about the world you only just stopped believing in yourself--and watching you in that thirty seconds, I have seen, you don't think so but I do, everything in the world worth seeing.