The Dark, and other poems by Richard Krawiec
Richard Krawiec ’s third novel, Vulnerables, was published in France (Tusitala Editions, paperback by Points Press) to widespread acclaim. He has published three books of poetry, most recently Women Who Loved me Despite (Second Edition).His work appears in Drunken Boat, Shenandoah, sou’wester, Levure Litteraire, Dublin Review, Chautauqua Literary Journal, etc. He has been awarded fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the NC Arts Council (twice), and the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. He is founder of Jacar Press, a Community Active publishing company.
after Jane Kenyon
There is no accounting for sorrow, either,
the way it turns up like a runaway
begging in the dust stirred by 1000 passing feet
hurrying to horde away their own fortunes.
And how can you feel forgiven?
No feast in honor of what
you have lost, every thread unstitched from your
garments, nothing to save for a celebration
impossible to imagine. You weep night and day
to know you were abandoned,
that happiness saved its most common forms
for others, No, unhappiness is the father
who leered at you over the back of the couch,
the lover who bogged an old jeep into the thick mud
of a torn-up meadow, left you there while she took a taxi
out of town, left you to inquire for her, for him,
at every door until you fell asleep midday
beneath the bushes in a public park,
as you so often do,
during the unmerciful hours of your despair.
It comes to the condemned man in his cell.
It comes to the woman weeping on the street,
beaten with a broom. It comes to the child
whose father has awoken still distant.
It comes to the lover abandoned like an infant
to a dog snarling safety from the room.
It is the needle
leaking blood before the plunge into vein or muscle,
and the man sliding cans of beans into the pockets
of his greasy coat before the store closes
for the night.
It even comes to the boulder
laced with explosives that will shatter the pine barrens,
to the acidic rain falling on a plastic-clogged sea,
to the broken wine bottle, it’s forgetfulness spilled
to a blood puddle beneath the street light flickering out.
Outside the inn’s window
the tube of the bird feeder
flanked by TV satellite dish
and camelia bush, pink petals
shucked to the ground.
painting of a hummingbird
in mid-seek, never reaching
the mimosa. A mantel
timepiece that doesn’t stop.
I want to think
the clock ticking
speaks for someone else,
it’s not my house, after all,
just temporary, a stay,
like all stays, a passing
through what we never,
not really, own,
though we might
call it ‘ours’.
The forward click,
irony of diminishment;
the bird unable
to reach what it seeks;
gray mouth of the dish,
from the ever-present,
Does the bush regret
shaking off its blossoms?
Maybe the cardinals
and blackbirds too
tire of fighting for all
New Year’s Eve at the Nursing Home
After they were all installed
at tables,bibbed for dinner,
one woman stuttered a birdcall syllable
that kept trying to crack into a word;
a wife lay slack, ungazing, in the drift
of her husband’s departing current;
the half blind man trembled
a sippy cup to his fondling lips;
that merchant marine cursed, again,
three red soft spots atop his head
pulsing; in the corner, muttering
a language only she spoke
the woman who once twirled through
corridors sat medicated, unblinking;
another half dozen sunken in wheelchairs
awaiting the prodding spoon, signal
to open their mouths for pureed gray;
at the table closest to the doorway
the few who thought themselves less
damned, mobile in walkers, still
schooling like 7th graders –
block-faced woman with blunt-
cut black hair; matron dressed
in green sweater covered with glitter
and swirl; the leader, tongue
as nimble as a sword
fighter’s fade, lunging her words
like a rapier to keep the darkness
of others backed up the stairs.
Outside, the cold moan of another ice storm.
The last visitor remaining tapped
his cell phone to release tinny strains
of Auld Lang Syne. The song tendrilled
the dining room, and a mischief of voices
spread like mice foraging a winter room,
each singing their own remembered melody
and tempo, voices creaking, bleating,
whispering, croaking, worrying notes
like small found seeds; faces once
etched with scowls and frowns, opening
into capacious smiles.
When the song finished,
their heads nodded and swayed
and they drifted away, to whatever
internal seas might rock them
quietly into the new year.
One wetsuit washed ashore as a corporeal ghost,
flippers connected to legs by tibia; bones
the final body parts not devoured or dissolved
in the acidic surge between the North and Celtic Seas.
How much desperation is needed
to turn that frigid turge into promise of sunrise?
Mouaz al-Balkhi journeyed a cat’s cradle
from Syria to Jordan then Turkey,
chasing universities whose closed doors
drove him further away than the sidewalk.
For two days he trudged the stinging desert
of Algeria to find on the Libyan shore a boat
sinking with migrants. Rescued
then expelled from Italy to Dunkirk,
where each time he crawled inside a lorry
a flashlight, a hand, found and dragged him out.
Finally Calais, last gateway of belief
that it might be possible to elude, to live
somewhere. England. A misty promise
offered in the distant chalky cliffs
across the Channel. That speck of land
seeming so close when standing
on the French shore. He traded his last pounds
for wet suit, mask, snorkel, fins then dove
towards the promise of white. White.
That seductive lie always seen as star-
gleam, not fang-glisten, even as it crashes
ship after ship on its gray, stony coast.
Mouaz walked into the sea not alone.
He plunged into the waters with Shadi Kataf
who’d fled a home in Yarmouk, Damascus,
bombed from 150 to 20 thousand
by a dictator we embrace now as ally.
Kataf’s dream of a job dissolved into begging
on the streets of France. On Facebook
his profile floats in clear water. “Come back,”
a friend writes. Shadi replies he wants to live
in the sea. Dream come true. His body drifts,
freed to the bellies of crabs and fish in the icy water
where he, and Mouaz, wait for all of us to return.
From the Shisa dog’s mouth
a broad morning glory leaf
One angled stalk of crabgrass
slants past Buddha, as if waiting
for his folded hands
to open and reach.
The Celtic cross on a gray stump
offers perpetual benediction
to the sprouts rising
from spider leg roots.
stone is not ascendant;
what lasts isn’t chiseled
but is like the green
emergent after drought
or cutting, the ever-struggle
from the cracking ground.
You Expect Me
Last night’s war dream/ found me in a loft/ white walls, polished pine floorboards/a fire escape, steps riveted/with holes, leading down/ to a suite of open rooms/empty and full/of sunlight streaming/ in from the wall-length windows/showing that shiny city outside/ glowing and distant/
/a helmeted soldier/in vest and fatigues cinched/by a grenade belt/ stood in the sunlight./ He hefted an assault rifle/ methodically moved/ it left to right, back again, /spraying bullets that bit/ and shredded the metal stairs/until only a knob/extended below the rim.
And you expect me to tell you
© Richard Krawiec