We’re on the edge of eternity,
says the chaplain at the funeral.
He details the death of a teenager,
life screeches to a stop like he fell off
a Mongoose into a black hole in the blacktop.
The man fell off the edge into what?
He doesn’t say, but speaks with confidence
it’s not the eternal blackness my grandmother suggests.
Memories of my uncle:
his ’65 Chevy, pictures of him brazen and brawny
in his fireman’s uniform.
I visualize where he is over that thin red line:
the edge of eternity.
She glowed in the sticky street,
cigarette hanging from ruby-red lips.
I wandered among musicians, drunks,
strip clubs and bachelorettes in sparkled masks.
She asked for my hands;
I can’t recall what she said in her scarred voice,
but I remember the way the square smelled
like jungle juice and cheap perfume,
and the warmth of her fingers;
then a jolt like an electric chair.
I thought myself a troubadour,
sober and sad in shadow-dark streets.
But I was a school boy, looking for
glimmers of light in a dark room.
Just when you think you’re going to collapse,
and get swallowed into the abyss:
You fall into God’s arms.
When you think life is too much,
and you’re surrounded by darkness,
and the world becomes small,
God enlarges it.
When it feels like you won’t make it,
and all you see is anger and fear,
and the world looks mean and barren,
God injects a million colors.
It’s in those moments when you realize God is always there:
He was there in the darkness, and He was there in the light;
He is the flame that eternally shines.
Where does it hurt, dad?
I see the mind turning,
the drugs, the Reds, the volume on high:
anything to quiet inner voice.
What does it tell you, dad?
Don’t believe it;
I don’t care about your money,
or your conquests.
I love you for who you are:
We wallow in the cathedral, sell wisdom by the ounce.
Sleeping on a bed of soda cans and condoms,
next shot could be the last;
eyes closed, mouth foams, we melt into the hardwood floor.
Father, forgive me.
We came from the county;
grew up on farms, riding horses.
Sitting in the derelict pew; this used to be a spiritual haven.
Maybe it still is?
Father, forgive me.
We’re in the here and now, and now, we want a shot,
filling us like cheap unleaded,
let us lie here in our twisted peace.
Father, forgive us.
See the silver moon through the trees,
but don’t open the gates that lead to the dark forest.
I forget what the outside’s like;
in the twilight, hear the groans of the dying.
They claw at the gates, fingernails breaking.
They are not supernatural or beasts or animal-men,
they are just the unfortunates.
In this commune, this aged mansion of the lucky ones,
we pray for the outside.
A few months ago, I began looking through my journals at old poems I had written. “Strange planet” has gone through several revisions over the past year or so, and this is where I’m at with it so far.