Saturday, March 22, 2008

Poem: Gravity (2)

I'm at the family reunion, it's the middle of the afternoon
And five year old cousin Harley-Named-For-A-Motorcycle
is in the sandbox again, digging a hole to China, according to my great-aunt.

My uncle wipes the sweat off his forehead.
“She hasn't been the same since her brother got run over,”
Midwestern understatement dripping off his words
My great-aunt nods, that nod reserved only for funerals of children
and birthday parties of people you don't know

and I leave before she can ask me how I've been doing since my mother died.
In the midwest, people only talk about things they know,
and the only things these relatives have in common are death and the weather
We covered June through August during lunch time
before the apologetic July sun got too high
beating down sayin' I'm sorry I'm sorry I'm sorry
but you need me to live please forgive me I'm sorry

I crouch down next to Harley so that we're almost the same height
and I can pretend that we're equals for just a moment,
but she's waist-deep in the middle of the sandy pit she's been working on since lunch-time.
tiny grains all around cascading back in,
almost but not quite filling in the space around her

“What are you digging for?” I ask her.
“Gravity,” she says, “I'm digging for gravity."

And cousin-Harley-Named-For-A-Motorcycle doesn't stop
She keeps going until she hits the dark rich hard clay
that makes her plastic shovel bend but not break
and she doesn't press any further
'cause the shovel's the only path she has to finding
the force that keeps us down
the force that keeps the earth and the moon and us
from getting flung out into the vast nothingness
the force that kept her brother pinned beneath that station wagon
so that he couldn't ever float away
and now becomes the same dirt
that she digs through

But see, the whole world is a cemetery
and we're walking on the graves
and it's beautiful because
every tree, every blade of grass is a tombstone that reads
“Here lives something that lived” and every time we walk barefoot
we walk on top of that dark rich history, the kind that gets underneath your
fingernails and coats the soles of your feet, except I stopped believing in souls
about the same time I realized I never really believed in God

But if God exists he's down there in the white hot core
where all the history melts and blends together until you can't tell it apart
sad and angry and so dense that we can't escape its pull without rockets
and he forces his way up in volcanic divine intervention
full of Sulfur and iron and life and love
and every eruption is like a little piece of the sun
I'm sorry I'm sorry I'm sorry but I can't bear to not see you I'm sorry
Please don't run away I'm not trying to hurt you I just want to see you
please don't leave me alone

And I find myself in the only hardware store in Spearfish, South Dakota
in the checkout line with a shovel in hand
'cause it isn't right for Harley to have to dig by herself
I'd buy her a backhoe but this is something we have to do by hand

and I plunge my shovel into the dark rich hard clay
and I break the firmament
and I have blisters on my hand blisters hot like the sun is hot
but I'm not sorry not sorry in the least and I won't apologize
for me or for Cousin Harley for not being able to resist the pull

they say that no one survives looking at the face of god
but I intend to find god, if he's there, and I'll find gravity, too
it apologizing I'm sorry I'm sorry I'm sorry please don't leave me
all I want to do is forgive it and teach it what I'm learning
every day it's okay to be you it's okay to be me
it's just the way we are and I want it to say
I want to see you and I'm not sorry anymore can we talk for a bit
and we float up and I talk with the sun and it flings me off and out
into the vast infinite nothingness smiling the whole way
and I don't need a shovel anymore
because I've found gravity and so has Harley and it doesn't hide anymore
smiling and apologizing, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I never meant to hurt you