||Prayer to Simone Weil
"...even saints have to eat to get strength."
Judas in The Last Temptation of Christ
Death stinks, no matter how much it's made up.
Mademoiselle, for whom are you waiting,
dressed to kill like that in those discarded,
dead-man's boots & boxy, camouflage fatigues?
The whitecapped combers clap frantically up
against several incoming freighters, & the harbor's
thick with the outlandish, foreign tongues of refugees
fleeing that Nazi soullessness pouring in around them
from the north. And yet, there you are, huddled like a wet
cat on the quay in Marseilles in the spring of '41, absolutely
(perfectly?) motionless. Could it be that this century's
sins have got you down, or are you simply beginning
to construct a scaffolding of ideas to prop up against
that facade, your death, you're building? Go, climb
to the top & you will find nothing more there than a steady
drizzle as though you were suddenly awash in the middle
of a bowl of cold fish soup. How you struggle to keep afloat
with all the seriousness of a wide-eyed flounder, unsynogogued,
as your prayers reach out toward heaven extolling Beauty
that is this world's but refuses to be totally consumed.
Tell me, is it simply a sneer that separates
the saint from the suicide? All that's left to eat
are our words. In the end each of us dies too soon,
Simone, & one's death never seems quite enough.
Letter to the Draft Board
On the Good Friday afternoon
I returned home to tell my father how
I refused to fight in his generations dirty,
little war, I thought the news would nearly kill
him, but he didnt say a word, just looked
with sadness toward my mother as if
to say it must be all her fault, this trouble
that walked into their house. She was the one
who raised this boy who hadnt learned simple duty
to his country or his family. Then I asked him
to write a letter for me to my draft board.
He, heavy, sighed, this man with only eight
years education but a life full of duty
& factory sweat, a man who had never written
a letter to anyone, shamed by the words
he didnt know & the pens that wouldnt do
what he asked them to do.
On Holy Saturday he held his silence,
but Easter Sunday before Mass, his letter rested on
the kitchen table, sealed inside an envelope.
Sure, I could read it if I wanted, he said, but that meant
tearing the seal. When I ripped it open, what
was in there tore out my heart. "I give you
a good boy, an honest boy who would never do
anybody a hurt, a boy who grew up in a good home.
I taught him always to do the right thing. He should never
be in this war. War for him will not be good.
I know. I fought in a war, and this is my boy."
Not once did he say that he wished
I had not been born. Not once.
Although I haven't seen
the brown boathouse
at the bottom of Suicide Hill
on Lake Beulah's east bay
for the better part of thirty years
& its bricks & benches
may have been carted off
for salvage years ago,
the boys are still heard snapping
towels & cursing one another
while a half-dozen wooden row
boats bounce to the wakes,
creaking, creaking. This
is how I know I'm still alive.
Sleep, Gods, the Night Is Long
How marvelous it is to know
the light by what is not
light & to know darkness
as if we were forever
When autumn arrives,
of death & loss as though we do not
see the dampened color, rusts & muds,
in waves falling.
It's only in this death, it seems,
that we recognize what might
have been from what's not.