a mishap

the blank of blank
the science of dying
the black cat changing rooms
caught for a moment
in some brilliant sun
the pathology of fear
one LA car
slamming into another
is not like slow motion
and some lost things
can never be recovered but
thank Ra for the light
that let us see so clearly
the unreal aftermath
thank the kind Egyptian man
who owned a garage nearby
witness to the collision
who helped me to his limousine
then delivered me
to the door of salvation by air
the everything I don’t remember
the desert wind
dry as a breath
in the battle of love
night flight
shock tight now shoulders and neck
and an uneasy dreaminess
come over me like warm waves
of whatever it is that keeps changing
from black to white inside my brain
Cleveland two am
sick and dizzy at the VA
like a drunk or a junkie nodding
my brain a whirr
of unidentifiable pictures
of a background from someone else’s life
what is this I ask the light
and the light blasts down on me
something I could feel through my spine
and through my groin
a sharp chain pulled through me
then something flying out of my body
oh thing
flying out of my body
I don’t worship you
I worship no man or woman or god or myth or story
I have stood in a sunlit green valley
filled with hidden terrors and sudden death
yet lost myself
in the way through leaves and branches
the light spears rained down sometimes
or maybe that’s my rattled brain
because I don’t remember everything
the crash a wild blur and boom three times
like mortar rounds
the way that they come down
so you can hear them
is where my brain was sent
in one hard second of contact
metal on plastic on metal
the force at fifty mph
like a storm inside your skull and neck
that whipped me
I don’t know what it is that stays with me
I escaped some paperwork and the cops
and left the scene
there on the corner of Lincoln blvd
the Mexican woman thanking Jesus
her praying hands in the air like black birds
the stunned driver unable to comprehend the loss
the Egyptian man who read my eyes somehow
and got me out of there
a circle I keep finding
when I try to find my way

—for Shelley

 

 

 

Song of H.

Why do we murder ourselves
and then try to live forever.
At the exact heart of
Shenandoah, Miami,
a peacock crosses the busy street
unconcerned with cars and trucks
who stop or slow down;
one large feather has lost its color
and drags behind
like a bad memory
is where I find myself
because I can never fully
escape the war
and the wars today and tomorrow,
because forty years later
I can close my eyes
and still see what hot metal
does to human flesh,
the someone who died in our arms
for example, or the traffic here
that moves faster and faster
until it’s a blur of noisy color,
a perfectly horizontal rainbow
that you can follow
block to block to your bliss,
unless you murder yourself first,
or try to live forever
like you were a star or something,
a galaxy unto yourself,
all the poor soldiers
who didn’t come home
barely balanced on my back.
I try to swim them home
on a night river named Ca Lu,
but it’s burdened with ambush
so we are driven back to the trees
of our awakening,
but no one says the word
die, although that’s what I felt
and I would have given anything,
done anything, robbed or lied, said anything
for one more breath of jungle air that night,
like the prick of the needle
as it makes a hole
so you can live again.

 

 

 

 

weiglphotoBruce Weigl is the author of several volumes of poetry, including Song of Napalm, What Saves Us, and The Abundance of Nothing, which was a finalist for the 2013 Pulitzer Prize. The above poems are from his collection On the Shores of Welcome Home, which recently won the Isabella Gardner Award for Poetry from BOA Editions, Ltd. and is scheduled to be published by BOA in the Fall of 2018.
(“Photo was taken in early 1968 at our (1st Air Cav’s) base camp, Camp Evans, about thirty-five clicks north of Hue on highway one.” – Bruce Weigl)