They are all white lies!
He screamed inside
his skull
as he heard the homilies
in the solemn church.
True, he must remember
as a cautionary tale
only the deeds,
most human, most loveable,
of the departed
must be fervently told
for him who no longer
can renounce the laudatio
strewn like wild roses
at his feet…
Must he cup his ears
& mute the voices
that buzz about
the perfumed air?
& stop all imagined meaning
in the missal of the cult?
He wasn’t sure
if what he should do
was proper, honorific
never a privilege.
O if only he knew
how to act
according to the fashion
of the faithful
who observe tradition
for those who have gone
never to come back…
Can you spare a dime
of compassion
for him who lies
helpless on the dais.
Surely, he had had
his secret heroics,
even humanity
in moments of authenticity
never the patent grossness
of his frailty & folly
when he was alive?
O let the sleeping dogs lie then.
It won’t cost a penny,
an old man advises,
if one holds his horses
& flows calmly
with the evening tide.

But you exaggerate!
[His intervention was soft
but firm.]
He was a middling guy, all right,
sharp in his droll ways
like a fancy table knife.
At the time of generals,
he served as privileged lackey
to official satraps
in the corridor of power.
But his hands were not stained
with blood.
They put him on a leash
so he could justly survive.
O, he was lucky anyway
when protestors were picked up
from the crowd.
Was he evil in Mussolini way?
His family needed him
to survive.
[His voice trails off
as if shocked himself
by the sullen trust
in the logic
of his mediated art.]
But he’s gone anyway.
Did he run off
with the state loot?
His was a petty crime
of not being heroic,
like you & I
of the common tribe.
Were his generation
only given to cheap sentiments?
[He bottoms up
as he opens the door
& into the dark, befuddling night.]

How then to sum up
a life?
Everyone vanishes
in the blink of an eye
in cosmic time…
We, who are comfortless,
are left with no one
to console our grief
in the avalanche
of everyday loss
as we travel on the road
winding toward the edge…
Must we be kind
like angels
or hold to account
the dead who made us
Is there truly a summing up?
It is all zero-sum
for the world to tally?
& we stare at the bloodied moon,
like stray dogs
howling in the distance.

when the sun turns merciless
yet we fear to pray for
the savagery of rain:
the prospect is metaphorically lonelier…
Any loss,
such as it is,
is ever permanent, infinite.
& he who once
raised our fury,
emptying us of the clutter
of emotion,
won’t be witness again
to our forebearance, weakness.
By his sordid existence,
we turn,
by our own measure
phantoms of dignity & sorrow.
So they let everyone
hear within human distance
how great & vulnerable
the One
who cannot raise a howl
at the portrait
the mourners have painted.
It is him,
the dead on the other side
of the world,
they are talking about?
O how death brings
honor to the fool,
the criminal
& they sin
a thousand times more
by crying
how dearly he is missed.
But roses cut
in summer season
wilt, die.
In days like this
which we count on our fingers –
slowly, penitentially –
life just the same would cough
& hum again
like a spectral engine,
as if nothing really serious
has happened.
It is almost
as if the heart,
by its own dark compulsion,
wills itself to eventually forget
her who never answered,
even vanished
without a trace
in the blue, blue hills
of memory…
She is painfully remembered
after some ceremonial
then quickly erased
as if she never existed.
O One must survive
the daily conflagration
that pestiferously visits
all the days
of love.
So-called left melancholy
among those who gathered
at the impromptu feast
of aging warriors
& detainees
should never,
it is warned,
be nurtured like an old wound,
lest it turn into an incurable disease
that scarifies, never leaves,
its imprint like a medal
for all to behold & see.
Never harp on the losses
but celebrate life
as if it were a godly gift
which their hearty laughter
showed anyway.
The ides of March:
We are cautioned
about disasters
that lie in ambush
at the corner.
Globules of invisible blood
stream up on the wall
of the ramshackle fortress
as if to protect us
from the inhuman siege.
Yet they are there,
to flood down
empty streets
& mix with the torrent of tears
that define the fateful
month of March,
when emperors perish,
& women rise.
The configuration
that visits our dreams
of waking…
& we cross our fingers
that the gods
may spare us
from unholy wrath.

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