I wanted to write an epic about suffering,
but when I found a tendril
of her hair among the ruins
of her mud house,
I found my epic there.
I didn’t sleep last night.
As if the night
were hiding in the morning coffee.
Her life is a game of snakes and ladders
sent relentlessly back to square one,
but whose life isn’t? She takes a breath
and throws the dice again.
The city glitters below
the airplane window, not because
of the bones and skulls scattered
under the sun, but the view
through the frosted breather hole.
She died, and time changed
for those she loved most,
but her watch kept ticking.
A god carried the burdens
until the weight persuaded him
to transfer them to man —
the new suffering god.
The map of Iraq looks like a mitten,
and so does the map of Michigan —
a match I made by chance.
If you can’t save people,
at least don’t hate them.
Her bubbling annoys me —
can’t understand a word she says.
So what if I toss her from the aquarium?
So what if I spill her new world
with this nasty immigrant fish!
The city’s innumerable lights
turning on and off remind us
we are born to arrive,
as we are born to leave.
The handkerchiefs are theirs,
but the tears are ours.
Women running barefoot.
Behind them, stars falling from the sky.
So strange,
in my dream of us,
you were also a dream.
He said to me: You are in my eyes.
Now when he sleeps,
his eyelids cover me.
Gilgamesh stopped wishing
for immortality,
for only in death could he be certain
of seeing his friend Enkidu again.
Some say love means
putting all your eggs
in one basket.
If they all break,
can the basket remain intact?
The homeless are not afraid
to miss something.
What passes through their eyes
is how the clouds pass over the rushing cars,
the way pigeons miss some of the seeds
on the road and move away.
Yet only they know
what it means to have a home
and to return to it.
The wind and rain
don’t discriminate
in buffeting us.
We are equal
in the eyes of the storm.
When I was broken into fragments,
you puzzled me
back together
piece by piece.
I no longer fear
being broken
in any moment.
Freezing in the mountains
without blankets or food,
and all they heard was
no news is good news.
Their stories didn’t kill me
but I would die if I didn’t
tell them to you.
Before killing them
they collected their personal effects.
Their cell phones are all ringing
in the box.
We are not upset when
the grass dies. We know
it will come back
in a season or two.
The dead don’t come back
but they appear every time
in the greenness of the grass.
If yearning encircles us,
what does it portend?
That a circle has no beginning
and no end?
Source: Poetry (July/August 2018)