My instinct is to pause near the weakened
and set apart, those men who shuffle bayside
with drooping eyes and lax arms as if waiting for a ferry
that has never come for them so why stay,
those women whose lips are dusted with crumbs,
no drink to wet and warm the slow tongue.
They speak different languages or none at all
but their stillness or words slip about me like lassos;
I am tugged toward a hidden cry of a mind
that seeks and cannot find.
It makes me homesick
for a happiness that can come to all.
You pull back- say we all must find our own way.
Distance may be the strong fence that keeps you in
a safer place, away from possibilities of
madness or privation, as if that suffering
will resurrect yours, bring you to your knees.
I say let us all kneel and nod in recognition:
humanity is dragged through life as well as lifted.
Let us net pain and give it refuge,
carry to brazen streets or yielding sky
any pleas for mercy as a potent offering.
Let slouching man and thirsty woman
meet our eyes with theirs and be known,
feel no shame of crippling loss. It is no sin
to be alive and stumble or to sense
an invisible gathering of angels or others
as their hearts labor for them without judgement.
To be is all any of us we have;
we are each given this, our chance.
Once we were closer to this than believed:
one man, one woman who carved
obdurate caves in which to conspire or hide,
and came the drink, a failed banishment of grief’s specter,
and the drug, a frail bandage to repair bloodletting.
Listen, I know those ones are my people as much
as those who manage dawn to dark with boldness,
heads so high. They have their own tender spots,
their lack of surety. I am not fooled.
I am versed in the strategies it takes to live.
You and I live like common meadowlarks,
migratory, adaptive, field and wood, art and hope
and Divinity the common passkeys
as we careen through lighting strikes of love or fury,
and ride on a wind that sings hallelujah
then drops us in mud and shining grasses.
We know that sun and moon light disguise
and reveal, that shadows and darkness
do the same. One cannot live without
learning navigation, noting signs, getting honest.
But the truth is a shape shifter:
though we live in plenty and strength now
we could be leaning over water’s edge,
or crouched with bread heel in trembling hands
and passersby would turn their heads
only to become blind, or to soon forget.
We must never forget our sisters and brothers,
their bravery and their ache,
what we were, too, yet were welcomed
into a circle and given reprieve.
We must not forget this, how tenuous the line,
and give not pity but dignity,
an easy nod, good word, a signal of love.