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Poem for Anthony Borges : NaPoWriMo #12

Between Death and a Door
~for Anthony Borges

Death doesn’t knock upon the door,
it demands to be let through,
but there are those who refuse to listen.

These seconds seem small
waiting to die, nothing between the end
and the now except this barricade
of flesh leaned against hard wood
and heartbeats pushing blood
out of the body and onto the floor.

This act is selfless, to stand
in defense of the helpless,
to feel an entire existence
kept in the balance
while something faceless
sends its bullets ripping
with white noise and white flashes
through muscle, through lung,
through sound shattered bone.

Five strikes of the iron bell
to stave off twenty more,
five ear-splitting bangs
of skeletal fist pounding
against one shaking frame,
five brushes of bony fingers
against tear-streaked cheeks,
a world condensed down
to the scent of cauterized skin,
to the sound of shrieks,
to the sensation of breath
as a dissipating echo
in the mind.

And when you wake up
in the hospital bed,
your body feels less than your own,
a host of surgical scars
and open wounds no suture can close,
you hear them call you hero,
but you know it isn’t so
you just did what had to be done,
and now, just want to be left alone,
to heal, to feel time return itself
back to that steady second hand
where every tick of the clock
isn’t another triggered gunshot.

Death doesn’t knock upon the door,
it demands to be let through,
but you, you refused to listen.

Funeral

Funeral for a firearm

We’ve had a funeral for facts,
an unceremonious good-bye
to ways of measured truth
like lives held in teaspoons.

We’ve had a funeral for children,
a self-fulfilling prophecy
of profits killing kids over and over again
and politicians cashing the checks.

We’ve had funerals for friends
from work, from class, from church,
from the naval yard, from everywhere USA
where people carry death like spare change.

We’ve had a funeral for democracy,
electing stars of reality TV to play their roles
in high-back leather chairs
while leaving bloody fingerprints on every door.

We’ve had a funeral for decency,
choosing comfort food over truth
to keep a small, singular orbit
of revolving warmth inside such fragile cells.

We’ve had funerals for our selves,
sleeping with enemies under our pillows,
sleeping with enemies under our skins,
choosing to exist inside a currency of sins.

These illusions are self-evident,
to those with eyes open wide,
we’ve spent less time mourning these lives
than worshiping the source of the crimes.

Give everyone a gun

Armed and conscientious

Give the teachers guns
loaded with gold stars,
give the students guns
loaded with confetti and noise.

Give the politicians guns
loaded with indisputable facts,
give the media guns
loaded with human hunger.

Give the religious guns
loaded with bread and wine,
give the atheists guns
loaded with zeroes and ones.

Give the racists guns
loaded with rainbow light,
give the terrorists guns
loaded with human rights.

Give the film stars guns
loaded with pine cones and water,
give the lonely guns
loaded with glitter and lube.

Give the destitute guns
loaded with thousand dollar bills,
give the corporations guns
loaded with human joy.

Give the military guns
loaded with whoopi cushion farts,
give the pacifists guns
loaded with music and laughter.

Give the children guns
loaded with unrealistic ambition,
give the parents guns
loaded with wet ammunition.

A poem is a gun

If poems were firearms

Another disenchanted youth loads his backpack
with weapons, the heavy oil stink of black metal
and copper clinging to his pink and sensitive fingers
like chalk dust and graphite from hand sharpened pencils.
He’s spent the night memorizing Dylan Thomas,
loading clips and carbines and lubricating slots and slides
with metaphor and simile, with adjective and verb,
the lasting impressions of a concrete image.

The bell sounds and he drops the weight from his shoulders,
crouches behind a line of plain gray lockers to unzip his bag,
no one paying attention, he’s just another student in another hall
in another school in another town of America,
where the kids form packs and cliques as easy as amino acids
build ladders in the blood, and he’s up, and he’s done thinking
about whether this is right or wrong, red or blue,
he puts a barrel to the forehead of a beautiful blonde
and bang, fills her brain full of Shakespearean sonnets.

The kids begin to shriek and scatter like seagulls chased from beaches,
bouncing off each other and into the walls, falling down,
trampled by sneakers and boot heels and twisted ankle soles,
as the shots echo in rapid succession, leaving their words
like bruises on the flesh. A boy whose only desire from the day
was to ask Maggie Mae to the dance, suddenly compares her face
to the sun, wants to tattoo his heart with rhyme, to leave verses
like postcards from his hormones inside her mailbox at night.

Another finds that his appetite for carving curse words into desks
is suddenly replaced with Gwendolyn Brooks’ “we real cool,”
a girl stops taking selfies and starts speaking in iambic pentameter,
another throws her phone into the toilet and jots down five lines
in a three-subject notebook that previously held only her name,
a teacher suddenly realizes he’s shown favoritism to white students
and has an entire chapbook of poems about racism in his head.

Slowly, the crowd loses its panic, as more and more students and faculty
hit by the power and ferocity of stanza and scheme
feel their lives take a sudden change, a nod toward beauty
gone too-long ignored, their faces slackening then glowing with grins,
one by one they realize they’ve allowed their lives to be consumed by lies,
to forego existence for mere reflections of selves in palms,
and they line up like believers after the pastor’s psalms, saying, “Me too. Me too.”

Keeping Pain Fresh

From new to nowhere

I pass three waterfalls on my daily commute,
their foamy-fingered descent, contrasted against dark brown stone,
is a newborn countdown calendar of days, until beauty fades
into the ordinary, simple, and plain background noise
of just another forty minutes alone between destinations.

Nothing new stays new past the moment it’s first perceived,
the senses overwhelmed begin to adjust
like eyes squinting against morning’s fractal light
and shaking free of the dust of dreams to find
one’s self at home in the same room as yesterday and many days before.

Even mountains, even rivers, even jagged coastline cliffs
juxtaposed with seascape clouds of purple and white and gold,
become just more paintings to be ignored on walls
in waiting rooms of mere mundane diagnoses
to be slept away like common colds or boredom.

O, to feel each crested hilltop as fresh as a blister burned
on a child’s careless palm, to rediscover awe
in its truest form, the first pain, the first joy,
the first taste of sweet sugar, candy apple green
pressed against the virgin tongue.

To never be numb, to never view death as inevitable,
these bodies just trapdoors for sighs,
piles of kindling waiting for sparks,
to never see names of children in a breaking newsfeed
and place them like shells along the spiral path to nowhere.

Another Gun Control debate

Nature Debates Gun Control

The trees don’t shoot, because the trees are unarmed,
their thin, spiny-limbed fingers foolish and flayed,
fail to form fists and succeed only in fractal whispers
of wind blown through bent and boughed bodies.
The trees are not concerned with mental health,
though victims themselves of axe and flame and saw.

The rivers don’t shoot, because the rivers are unarmed,
their beds worn smooth as glass, leaking dirt like blood
into currents ceaseless as breath from children
sleeping sound in rooms waiting for alarms,
waiting for parents to serve them breakfast
and hand them backpacks like life preservers

as if each new day is a potential drowning
in these rivers, these roads that carry them
away and then carry them back home.
The river is not insane, it has no control
over the bodies it carries, or if these vessels can float.

The oceans don’t shoot because the oceans are unarmed.
These great swallowers of reflection and light,
transparent and yet opaque,
junkyards and toxic waste dumps,
holders of secrets until the end,
the oceans have the power to make us well again
but they won’t.

The mountains don’t shoot, because the mountains
are unarmed, just arrowheads sharp and blunt
shaped from push and pull of Earth,
a force well beyond that of any trigger
with repercussions felt for millennia,
the mountain itself an atom bomb
times ten thousand, a pressure building
to eventual extinction, rendering all these debates
much like all these pistols, rifles, and grenades,
obsolete.