“Phlebotomy.” “Manufactory.” “Ceinture.”
Goodbye. And names. Lavonda lately, Tayvon lately.
But Fannie? Irving? There they are
on my parents’ stones, under a veiling snowfall.
The annals of human mystery
bear hundreds of such instances—not that
any friend of mine has succumbed, or I’ll wager
any of yours, or any friend of those friends’, or even any
stranger I’ve seen, not at the salon, or the governance meeting,
the strip club, the news room, the sacristy,
or at marriage counseling . . .
the testimony to such things is a clamor so unending, that
the seeds of these extremities must be deep in us, in all of us,
and anyway “the absence of proof,” as Carl Sagan has pointed out,
“is not the proof of absence.”
—an exemplification of which
might be (remember the marriage counseling?) my friends
Shalimar and Abel, who will sit in front of their mediator
an hour at a time like milk glass figurines, so
pale and still, although you know their subatomic bonds,
if broken, would—like anyone’s—release the same hellfire
that devastated Hiroshima and Nagasaki . . .
We love to stroke
the sleeves of other lives, where they’re arrayed for us
on hangers on the rack of the local Select-A-Who.
No wonder we’re easy prey, we so
collaborate with the hunters.
When a child makes a cup
from clay, you can often see his fingerprint
still in it—as if he isn’t afraid
of saying who he is, or of you knowing,
of your lifting the cup by fitting
your finger into his own.
a visit like that
is altering; you become your own souvenir.
That me is what I’ve packed to bring along
as I speed and sing and tremble a little and brush it away this afternoon
an hour out of Emporia now with Kansas City almost in sight,
along the deep greens and the graves
of the long, long road of assimilation.
When Jimmy Semkins showed me he could pack
the usual snowball around a stone
for extra hurting power, it struck me
like news from some darker, alternate universe
—that understanding, and everything it implied,
hurt worse than the stone could.