Updated: Oct 31, 2022
Be Whole Again Beyond Confusion*
I break into the empty farmhouse and wander the rooms.
There, pencil marks on the kitchen door
where children’s heights were measured, ending at six feet.
Upstairs, marks on the floor from where a bureau sat,
and an absent picture frame left an unfaded square.
From the bedroom window I see barns out back,
bales of hay softening into lumps on an abandoned rick.
I go outside, push open a swollen door
and find an old truck covered in yellow dust,
the perfect, rustless body a collector’s dream.
I think if I give it a gallon of gas it will start right up.
And suddenly the place is lit with energy,
needles of sun come through cracks in the louvered walls.
I think I hear a tractor start up outside
and a woman’s voice calling from the house.
Down the road and over the hill
I find a rosewood barn and begin to photograph it.
A voice behind me says, “Don’t go inside.”
I tell him I won’t. “They don’t build them
like this anymore,” I say. “Ya can’t,” he says.
And in his silence I read the expense of the wood,
the careful love of maybe fifteen neighbors’ hands.
No prefab this, nor in his face.
Am I sentimental? About to bore the young
with how things used to be?
Well, I am old. And afraid. And I don’t like
the world I see growing around me,
all the aluminum siding empty as an oilman’s soul.
Further on, I step over a fence
with a no trespassing sign to photograph
another house. The door hangs from
a single hinge as if to beckon me.
Someone, some kids, have left beer cans,
cigarette butts, and a melted candle on the floor.
I feel the room go dark as the late sun
moves behind a cloud. I have to go now,
go home and have some dinner.
By myself. Divorced, I’ve outlived my family,
and, my God, three lovers. How often
I’ve wanted to pick up the phone and call someone
who owns a shard of memory that would help
it all make sense, and then remember they’re dead.
I survived a war and then enjoyed life in a time
where we seemed, as a species, to briefly change
for the better, a continuation of a dream
that began with the end of the Depression.
Hope was a real word, a little bright island in time,
now gone and the accomplishments of those years
being reversed by greed and a meanness
I didn’t think would come again.
My grieving is not merely the sentiments
that come with age, no,
there is something deeply wrong
and the coldness of space invites us to disintegrate
out there with all the other planets
collapsed in on themselves.
How frail our posturing in this great silence.
There's no wall at the end of the universe.
It circles back and time becomes a stream
that cleans itself of the sewage of the ugly spirit.
Here there is no turn in the psalm,
where a remembrance of God lifts the spirit.
The Jesus of the Gospels managed it even with
the spikes driven through his hands and feet.
Could he possibly have believed that God
was there: Do not be far from me, for trouble is near and there is no one to help.
No, he was right at the beginning: Thou hast forsaken me.
*Title from Robert Frost's Directive.