The Hair of Fate in Bitter Eyes
This story is too hideous to tell.
But simple weight of hearing it
has forced this page to fill itself.
Every limb and every breath;
every kiss and every move;
every gesture, every stand.
It will bleed on pillowcases--
staining all you own and have.
Julie was shot in the neck and paralyzed
by a man on a private rage.
When she was taken to the ER,
they determined that she would lose
the use of all her limbs,
feel nothing but her nose
and her tongue and the
cruel hair of fate in her eyes.
There were two horrific scenes
that Autumn night--
and the doctors accidentally saved her,
thinking she was the one
who would come back to earth
in the semblance of whole.
They’d never break their rigid rules
to rectify this cruel mistake.
Her family has abandoned her.
They cannot face infected tombs.
Penniless. At the mercy of the State.
Treated as an irritating rat in a cage,
Julie is prey to doctors’ whims.
On Morphine, oxygen, Demerol,
Valium, dialysis. IVs are the only
shoestrings in her life at 42.
Drugs the only piano keys
she has at all to render
bursts of passing comfort.
As one should understand,
she hates the aides, lashes out
at them like lucky ballerinas
who own the stage of hope,
but do not have the grace to share.
Her bed sores have gone untreated
for more than a year,
because doctors hate
to come to her home.
They have grown from
the size of silver dollars to chasms in a canyon’s tread--
so deep, so deep her backbone shows.
She has no money;
the wolves of doom have eaten her
and medicine just walks away;
ce n’est pas mon probleme;
the case they plead, oblivion.
She begs for Carrie to pull the plug
and let her die, but a nurse
cannot exercise such mercy
without going to jail,
losing her job and family.
There is no laughter.
There is no poise.
She hurls bitter obscenities
like Frisbees over summer lawns.
And here we sit licking days.
Doing nothing to stop
this horrible wreck.
The cemetery slab
of a hospital bed is
a cruel way to spend a life,
but we are living roped and tied
to quite a set of shameless rules.
Ones we wrote ourselves, of course.
I pray we’re throwing up by now
and cracking knees like Christmas nuts
on absolution’s choir pews.
The Hallmark Card
He graduated from Princeton
at the top of his class and went on
to a fine, fine medical school,
but years brought too much
helium of easy street;
he needed freight trains of defeat
to educate his leather heart.
Green masks were a lucrative choice
in many ways: they bought a safe
of step away, but blocked
his view of real trees.
Retorts to gut wrench agony:
"time is your friend...
this too shall pass."
We saddled up dismissal’s horse.
Writing scripts for little pills
was wiping up a Noah’s Flood
with nothing but a paper towel.
He needed tragic kidney stones
to force through urinary tracts.
Medicine craves, I’m sad to say,
required courses wrought
in dire desperation--
get real smart of being Black
before the swords of Klu Klux Klans.
Witnessing of bones meet saws,
tendons twisted, crammed in place
like corks in stale Chardonnay.
The kind of private agony
that freezes hair around our balls.
Dark, by sorrow’s accident,
finds ways of beefing up the light.
He needed caffeine destiny
to fluff compassion’s robe with fire.
His distance was a Magna Carta
smacking of a Hallmark card.
An Artless Death
It started out with humble goals.
To make two parents swell with pride.
Joined the joints of army boots
that finger-painted human blood.
His keepsake was a cameo
from tea cups of a woman’s heart.
It sat beside an M-16 that could have been
a plastic gift from Toys ‘R’ Us
we ordered with our apathy.
Ramp and rampant rust of battle--
fighter planes and helicopters
spun their helpless in the air.
Setting down on innocence,
grass deceits, and flaming huts.
The night watch was a swamp of snakes.
Earth he promised to defend
on bubbles of a bible’s text:
turned by rain to patted rice
imbued with someone else’s plan.
He returned beneath a tarp
in plastic bags as semen speaking
evidence behind a very cruel rape.
His death the kind of guilt dismissed--
like peeing in a river’s womb.
When I look in your eyes,
I see justice myths as empty urns.
Prometheus gave the world fire
and suffered for his sacrifice.
You are the boatman
of the River Styx, but
tragic vacuums swallow coins;
the truth of your moan
makes mortal deaf.
To help a friend,
you set up something worse
than death: a bullet
in your back for
every tender finger shared.
This year, Santa Claus
is a morphine drip
and enemas pour into a pile
of old nightgowns dropped
off like communion wafers
from someone who wants to
but cannot change despairing facts.
Nurses are your body guards.
Reindeer motion is nothing but thorns.
A hot, hot date with a water-bottle
and a row of bedsores
gone from red to black
like holly seeds the world ignores.
Christmas stockings are a joint.
An ambulance, your limousine.
Eggnog rhymes with Lomatil.
Through it all, there sings a muted
victory of how you put another first:
just like straw for eagle wings,
Quixote winds live in your hair.
The Obvious Tarantula
Altruism and hard work brought Julie
to the edge of a cliff and she wants to jump.
When she helped a friend escape abuse,
electric chairs of discontent,
the husband rode in on anger’s horse,
shot her half-a-dozen times.
Her limbs are now rotted chunks of eggplant
without a scrap of purple mobile;
flutes of sex and love are mute;
courage is the only cottage by the sea
and rent is more than she can pay.
Her friends all drive past her house
and do not stop--she’s coiled snakes.
In lobster claws of bitter floods,
she’s phone booths
trapped in pounding rain.
Proliferations of her scars
make the Grand Canyon
look like a paper cut.
Flea-bite fate, an embryo
for obvious tarantulas;
here I sit at keyboard islands--
breathing ethered Saks Fifth air.
I pray that God was fast asleep
when guns went off:
injustice is the devil’s worm.
Help’s harbor is a floating pier
of aides that try but fail to recognize
that Christmas trees are cruel jokes.
Death’s haven is a cruise she wants.
When the "accident" happened,
her husband (as white picket fences do)
disappeared ‘cause paint chipped off;
she no longer wore lipstick and negligees.
There is no Don Quixote breeze:
her windmill is a ceiling fan.
Religion is a poor erection;
life will never get it up.