Requiem for a Youth
It is so-
is so sad.
To see him like that-
Behind the glass
with the phone in his hands,
a tired smile,
a lot of lost weight
making his orange suit baggy
like the denim shorts that used
to hang below his double X L shirts.
His hair short
like it was back in the day.
Mirthless chuckles in place of his
He leans back in his chair like the day in class
when he wouldn't listen, wouldn't leave for the office,
when he used his ankle bracelet to get out of detention,
and the gentle teacher mentioned a social worker
a SOCIAL WORKER,
what kind of kid has one of those?
The same kid who could stop a lesson with a joke,
the same kid who was so loved by so many,
who ran into the cops so often
but was polite each and every time.
The very one who was sequestered in a little carousel
in first grade because he was too funny,
The one who, after that stand off with the gentle teacher
came back the next day and-
So humbled, so embarrassed, so well-meaning.
Like he is now,
inside the walls
for pushing his envelope off the table with
an armed burglary.
Withheld from a society that loves him-
kind of like in first grade.
Six years is a long time to stop being a kid.
It might be too long to start being a man.
Sometimes people stay up late when they should really lie down and sleep,
extending their day into the nightwatch, lit by
the weary glow of a lamp or the pallid wash of TV and computer screens.
Ingesting an impulsive snack or sipping one too many,
trading contacts for glasses in their comfy clothes.
There are good reasons to be up
sometimes there isn't enough time in a day to complete a hard day's work.
Maybe there's a game being played on the west coast,
perhaps a friend is up for a particularly intriguing conversation,
and for some the night might smolder in ecstasy.
And there are some rotten reasons to be up so late too
whirling minds don't slow down for sleep,
and lack of love or food can rest heavy on the mind and stomach,
sometimes a loved one can't (or won't) find sleep themselves.
But sometimes people stay up
when they should really lie down and sleep.
The rest and rejuvenation will be welcome the next day,
not much is getting accomplished.
It's the heavy-eyed rerun of SportsCenter,
the numbing scroll through Facebook,
the excessive Netflix episode,
the aimless wall-staring,
the lonely porn-watching,
the just-one-more video gaming,
and the "hey-are-you-still-up?" texts
that really gets people.
Nonsense, really, in comparison to a healthy sleep cycle.
It's cowardly, I hate to say,
when people stay up
when they should really lie down and sleep.
Choosing to be a specter in this lame-duck end of day,
Playing out a dull loop while the world's on pause.
Healthy alone time for unwinding?
Maybe sometimes sure. Cowardly?
Yes often I think so.
To wallow in a poorly-lit after-hours cubicle
in order to hold off meeting tomorrow.
Grasping at a few more hours of being over today's problems
so as to delay facing tomorrow's,
as if the Lord won't give a new set of mercies
or all gumption will dissolve in the midst of dreams.
Resting easy in the manageable ache of today for a few hours more
just to avoid the re-injury with the sun's rising.
I've been there,
I've done that.
And right now I should really lie down and sleep,
but I just had to tell you.
And tomorrows are so scary-
I, like you, can be such a coward.
And I thought if I tried to unwind
I might really just unravel.
I wish you luck on tomorrow.
this is a poem that fell out of my brain
As my head leaned over a new creation,
heavy with watercolors of thought
pooling in the palette,
my neck creaking and aching,
the idea spilled out,
and splashed onto the table
of books and paper and pens
and Chinese Black Tea.
It congealed into a
turbulent little mess -
streamers of vibrant indigo
bursts of orchid
dusty pastels of celadon,
all choked out by a creeping darkness,
not black, not gray, but dark -
a murky opaqueness,
giving this thought on the table
an uneasy and unintelligible form.
I didn't know what to do with the thing,
and wasn't quite sure of where it came from.
I tilted my head, now massively empty,
and squinted bleary-eyed through my specs.
"What I am supposed to do with you?"
"Oh please!" it said, to my great shock.
"Tell this story! It was so loud in there
and I thought you'd never hear me. I thought
you'd keep your defenses up so well
that I'd be trapped in the scrum
waiting behind a long line of decent
refined and presentable items
"You're a mess" I said,
"I can't hardly shape you into coherency.
What will everyone else think?
How will you make them feel?
How will you reflect on me?
You belong to me, you know,
no one else needs this,
it's better if you just simmer."
"No! Unthinkable! Irreversible! Unsilenceable!
I am you
authentic and real
the ears of the deaf
shouts for the dumb
for the blind
and a middle finger
for those who don't
listen to me
don't put me back!"
"There there" I said
as I picked it up in my hand.
It was heavy.
"Maybe some day. When they're all ready.
When I'm ready."
It left a mark on the paper,
a scattering of words and phrases,
a fresh dark deep ink
bleeding through the pages below.
"Fine" it said.
"I'll find a way back in."
It melted into a pool of
dark water, flowing out of
the palm of my hand and
splashing onto the paper,
blurring the emblazoned words.
I turned on the news.
A sexy woman was talking about whatever.
The crawl said something about
dead black people in Africa and Carolina
as the ink and tears dried.
That is not it,
that is not what I meant at all.
Might I step back then?
Behind the line that I just crossed?
The invisible barrier we both knew was there
but chose to see through -
it couldn't hold me forever
and I finally dared to step forward
to lay at your feet on the threshing floor.
May we return, you and I,
to the days when I would glean from
flaxen fields of grain
until the end of day
beneath vermilion dusk?
No, the gate has closed behind you,
and all has changed going forward,
behind you is a blurry mess,
and here is searing clarity.
This is where I'm supposed to be,
you run along.
I didn't know I'd make it so far,
I don't know how to go on!
Arrival was the battle,
how unjust that I should take the field
just to make my grave here.
I cannot bear the shame,
my armor cannot hide me
and my sword is dulled.
who won't meet tomorrow
like he received today.
Slaying a wyrm to become a worm
all the same.