Death I know, in each of its sallow forms;
it is the clock past midnight, past all allotted time,
with its hands arcing in cycles of tarnished brass,
tarnished eons, its fingers prodding, asking to hurry please,
pointing past the countries of shadow.
Yes, it is knotted metal, warmed by flames from
gasoline that once hurled it unknotted down reeling freeways.
Yes, it is bullets sent by envious whims, it is seawater choked
amidst the swelling of storms, it is blood smeared on lockers and
spattered on foreign soil and coughed
into the bathroom sink
in the middle of the night when it is too late.
But it is also smoke blown above icing, it is
a first word, a first love, it is
training wheels coming off, and it is
weary eyes sending back all the glow of squandered days,
sending it back toward the speckled starlit chambers
where it first shone.
What is beyond death I know, I have seen it in rifts
in dusky skies where the memory of light sieves through,
the memory of all light, it is enough to devour suns,
yet instead it drenches the edges of clouds and drizzles orange upon
the crests of mountains, it gilds treetops and immerses us with
yearnings for far-off lives in far-off realms.
I have seen it in the corners of smiles, in generously tossed coins,
in naked embraces and quiet voices. I can imagine it in
the hills that ascend toward the stars at night, where
we star-watchers climb a grassy swaying stairway toward untold lands.
But what is before death I do not know;
in each thing I see an end, I see
a glimpse of foretold splendor after that.
I want to listen to the infant cries in the next room over
and sense in them not a last breath, echoing backward hushed,
nor the transcendent crescendo that comes afterward,
but the momentary vitality of the cry itself. Yet life
evades me always, or so I think, I see loss
in every gaze, I hear the roaring of time without end,
it thunders in my ears like the sea, billowing boundless,
a knell humming beneath the mortal crust, humming against it
but never quite splintering through.
To deafen my ears but once to the inescapable tide, that would be enough,
I know – if I could attend but once to the gentle laughs and gentle sighs,
the simple sounds I believe must break the silence