I pulled the tiny mantis from the spider web:
barely a fingernail of stillness and fight.
The strands, delicate and deadly as time,
wrapped forelegs as if in actual prayer.
It’s not pleading, and I’m not asking
for recognition as I remove the silk
And shred the spider’s web.
We build whole faiths on this foundation,
That something larger than us can disentangle
us from reality. When nothing comes
to remove us from dis-ease, our hope suspends
us till we can’t move. But I can act, not as god
but as antibody, I can act because I’m of this world,
enough death within me to save a life
and save what would be killed without killing
what would kill. I don’t claim to be fair
as I leave it on the porch rail to finish freeing itself.
Whole faiths have fallen on less.
Some things spread, and some things don’t.
We light the match to burn it. Our mistake
was believing we were loved before we felt
the love, then believe we need to earn it.
It’s fake noon in the eastern spring. The hungover sun’s
an hour behind schedule, or savings time’s an hour
ahead of the real morning, but at twelve my shadow still
leans against the porch like it needs more coffee
to stand mid-day straight in this plague tilted May.
I’m carrying the dead man’s book of bad advice from
the heart. Born in Germany, brought up in Israel, he’d fought
in two wars and done something brave once, carrying
an injured man through gunfire. There’s a precision to a bullet
missing its mark that the missed can feel, the smallness of a bullet
as cause of death and effect of a whole series of processes
and willful acts unrelated to intent to kill. And when a bullet
misses all those acts lose their potency; though when a bullet
hits every human act leading to it shares the weight
of a life. He could have been chased by gnats or horseshoe flies
on a hot beach at dusk, carrying his lover piggyback to the dunes.
He could have run from car to porch, dodging snowflakes
with an armful of gifts under his coat; the speed of what’s coming
doesn’t make it easier to avoid. The storm of death is vast and
rushing; the light falling of cancer, quiet, drifting, unavoidable.
As if he realized the folly of his success against bullets, for decades he threw
himself in front of every love propelled near him, maybe he was trying
to save others from the heartbreak a single instance of intimacy
can cause as it impacts and splinters within. Even if you survive
it you can’t pull out all the pieces, and some float in your body
years later, still moving like everything internal and not fixed
toward the heart. The dead man’s advice is not really advice,
more reverse propheteering, explaining all the bullets that
are missing us as he carries me away from the moment.
And now I am carrying him, the lightest dead man ever
buried or burned in trails of trembling ink.
I want you to carry me, not like the wounded but in these words,
and there will be a lightness to the air around you as you finish reading,
like when the rain stops or the battlefield is hushed or
you come out of traffic to a quiet road in the middle of the day
and even the shadows are out of tune with the time as if
the poem itself has stopped them in their tracks to listen
and then kept going on and on for an hour.
And you’ll carry me to a porch of shade
and sunlight at a false noon but also
I’ll carry you, you’ll be just a little lighter as the book in your
hands does its real job, to lift you and bring you to safety,
to promise you nothing but to make the pain more precise and less
Overwhelming, bullets and not a bomb.
A fifth of May would be almost a week, not a day.
A fifth of a family is to be part of five lives, not fewer
than one. Alone, I’ve felt myself seeping out to the night,
not unpleasantly, and becoming less than myself
while more of the world, some animal, some star,
some puddle in a wheel rutted driveway seeping in
to the earth like a feeling absorbed by a body
and turned into a thought, an ache, a name.
A number that remembers isn’t doing its job,
only a fifth, which is fine, more like fingers
interlacing or opening like a flower in May
till the whole of us can’t be located
A thousand miles up and over
a rough-hewn stone sits atop
the bodies of my parents
A smooth space on the side
for a name that will mean
Nothing to anyone in time
On this their anniversary
beside each other for
the first time in almost
a decade the rain has fallen
As if they planned this day
when they picked that stone
with the rough divot they hoped
would collect rain for the birds