With Her Fog, Her Amphetamines, and Her Pearls
But she breaks just like a little girl. --
Twice you've asked me to leave.
This third time, uttered groggy
and forgetful from a hospital bed,
incensed that you're still alive, almost succeeds.
How glad I am you chose the wrong pills!
How glad I am they found you in the forest!
Yet you are more bitter than the taste of morphine
at how you failed at this, your final failure.
Now I see how you squeezed your eyes
harder than God shut your ears. This is not
a judgment but an observation-- I keep repeating this--
I thought the deaf saw more.
Your sainted dad's an alcoholic
and your noble husband beat you--
you never mentioned it. In AA there's a saying,
"Your secrets will kill you." Yours almost did
but you are now exposed, your pale moon
near full behind the flapping borders
of your hospital gown, blue print-on-white,
(thank God!) not rose-tinted black.
A Dying Fall
Blessed are the deaf asleep.
Sleeping, they hear; hearing, they know.
Knowing, they cannot explain
why their music is always in color.
Do not disturb their snoring,
it is their passionate breath.
Do not wake them to this
strange world of silence
But touch their honeyed skin;
hear the descending submarines.
This is your dumpster, beaten by usage,
misshapenly blue, blotched with rust
though resilient as steel, still serviceable enough
to mount on a truck.
Throw in what you can bear,
the broken torso of his vision of you
in clay and wire, the discarded water heater
and the towing chains.
Humankind cannot bear very much reality.
Throw in your father
who departed for the eternal suburbs
in a fit of gradual senescence;
throw in your golden retriever,
arthritic and blind, who needs a boost
to stand, christened "Sunny"
for his excellent temperament.
Throw in the plastic tarpaulins
that shield what feeds on darkness,
spore and fungi, throw in
the bitter pomegranate,
the purifying hyssop,
the man-shaped mandrake,
the hemlock and the yew,
all wilted keels of earth's
imaginary boat propelled by tears.
Throw in your confidence, your job,
your mother bearing bad news of your birth,
the striving to acquit yourself
persistently more equal than
those spared your handicap.
Throw in the cigarettes that killed your husband
(though you still smoke two packs a day),
throw in the blackened chest
that housed his far-seeing eye.
Throw in your only child,
the empty fuel can begging fire.
Pile it on a camel (one hump for each Testament),
send it into the desert
to empty you of that emptiness
beyond hope and reason.
Imagine you own nothing--
your body is rented, for instance,
your mind borrowed.
Though all your suffering is real,
you are not your suffering;
your losses cannot destroy you
nor your gains restore you.
Gather love's souvenirs
into a necklace of pain;
when you bless the seasnakes unawares
you will know the weight of it--
C.E. Chaffin's first book of poems, Elementary, was published in 1997 by the Mellen Press, available through Amazon.com. He edits the online literary journal, Melic Review, and has been widely published on the web and in print. He lives in Long Beach, CA, with his three daughters, and is presently on disability for psychiatric illness and chronic spinal pain.
C. E. Chaffin Sam Vaknin Dottieann Stucko Dave Benson