Richard P J Lambert CC
I was looking out and over
the long crowd on the High Street
thinking of the submerged grief
that river is carrying, and the hard
bone of the shoulders
of the woman in front of me
ebulliently swinging her child
from the line of her arm,
the shaking they must
be made to do at times
when she is alone,
the thought of lifting her arm
to another the feeling
of lifting all the arms
that have come before.
This is when trying to understand
the world only brings harm to oneself,
and more harm.
When trying to suss out the free will
is ungathering the haystack
in search of the straw,
and then, lain prone
in a golden field,
worn raw from crying,
seeing that one has
forgotten what she
was looking for.
This is why we must
choose to ride that river
at its mirrored surface.
Lying in the tunnel, black mountain wound
where I cannot stand, staring upward
to my sky of loam. Thinking of how I
began at nine years old, when I could tuck
in every nook, the first time I saw
the mouth of the mine. Since, the coal
has benighted my skin, settled the beds
of my fingernails with bitumen, filled
my mouth with its taste, and has never left me.
Starting out, I had dreams every night
of eternal incubation in the hole.
And my muscles – how they burned precipitately,
and, I feared, never-endingly. At home,
mother would stupe my wounds, stroke my neck,
straighten my back. But since, it’s the slate
of my mind when I’ve been down in the hole,
blank, benumbed; and when I’ve come up,
stooped, the sun’s coalescent burn
on me, I am aware of nothing but days
having passed. But all for the faith
of a distant descendant, a son
of a son of a son, unknown, nonentitous
boy, unseen, nonexistent progeny,
who will extract the light of day,
transpose it, press pencil to page.
It is he who will create, forge something
out of this dark hollow, his forever
unseen birthright, his unknown history.
My mother’s purse
In the black sea
bottom an eddy
of crumbs, candies,
pens and needles,
and a pill or two.
Bright red and blue,
notched, the smooth
gelatin of horse’s hooves –
were they the pills
that should have killed
you in 1962?
Year upon year,
the cyanide to bite
should they capture you?
Having killed myself, having lost myself,
drain cleaner I cannot tell which.
being my final choice,
something has run One time recently,
its course through before the acid cocktail,
my veins. I meant to look for some
answer in nature --
In life, each suicide to give it one last shot,
was a little death for me. after all what’s to lose –
As when my son found me but no answer
the time previous, presented itself.
the time I had trembled
downstairs to the basement Instead, I became lost
and set the buzzsaw in our town’s preserve –
to screaming about my arms, not far from the Japanese
and quivered upstairs, formal garden, yet far enough
blood running free and black to lose my orientation.
in the colorless crepuscule,
upstairs to the bathroom, And that was it.
my crypt, the tub my casket, I couldn’t think
pulling the curtain shut after me. of a thing to do.
I say he found me. But So I edged down
when I woke, thin-blooded, to where the stream spoons.
his eyes had such gravity, I held my hand in the cold water,
yet I was too fluid-empty watched it ripple beneath
to make tears. the sunlight-inflected surface,
and felt something
After that, his mother left me, drain out of me
and ipso facto he, and I am as a spring
persona non grata — feeds a river
for either her having lost me, or I feeds an ocean.
Charles Byrne is a teacher and poet in San Francisco, with publications in After Hours, Clarion, and Poetry Quarterly.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.