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.