Last Minute (Drowning, 1943)

by | Jul 12, 2011 | Poetry

“The road to heaven is equally short from all places.”
– Sir Thomas More



0:60 Everything dies with a false vibrato,
in a false abrasion (straining the uvula)
0:59 damning the minor scales. But me? I’m clinging
to a sinking grand piano, clinging to a smoking
0:58 riptide in which so many of the sticklebacks
are amputating their gills but I made Katie
0:57 stay out of the ocean because I loved her
so fiercely. Mom? I loved her too, but here
0:56 are the only things that can be said
about maternity: it is tongue-in-cheek. It is lonely
0:55 in all of its chambers with all of their beige drapery.
How can the world be filled with anything
0:54 when there are so many stillbirths daily? How
did the deathsmith find me? Why is my childhood
0:53 twitching in a bag? The bag & my childhood are dead,
my favorite colt is dead. He was good for little
0:52 more than lapping up the saltlick but I loved him
because he was loyal only to me. Back in Sioux City,
0:51 my kitchen used to smell of cinnamon & vanilla.
Oh mercy mercy me: those three ghosts
0:50 in the coral, are they sure they’re not rain?
Are you sure you’re not rain? Sometimes
0:49 rain dips its leaky feet in Epsom salt
because they are swollen. Swollen, in other tongues,
0:48 is sometimes known as bloated is sometimes known as God.
My doll-less daughter doesn’t believe in God.
0:47 She doesn’t believe in love. She doesn’t believe
in the moon’s bastard children because they have no
0:46 respect for the cosmic hierarchy (the feudalism
of the universe). Planets can kiss night after night
0:45 with knives between their throats because they are
of the same caste, so they grab each other
0:44 by the Adam’s apple in a passion so ripe & wet
that they forget they are being watched.
0:43 There is a writhing worm in the middle
of everything. Perry Como is playing nonstop in my head.
0:42 He owes me a harpsichord & I owe him several bubbles
& a paradox so I guess it seems we’re even, even
0:41 though he took my last skag. He kept it as a keepsake
above the patchwork above his doorway. In a previous life,
0:40 I was light’s last great apprentice. In the life
before that, I was nothing of great importance, or so
0:39 Dad says, but my sister still vouches that he has nothing
but an agenda & a miserable lantern. She explains,
0:38 When you were younger, you tried to construct a star
out of cord. They need oxygen just as much as humans.
0:37 They need someone to love them so will you love
this star? Will it have a name? Or will you
0:36 mourn it when it dies & grieve like no one else
has grieved before you? The grief is in you,
0:35 little one, you just have to find it & tug it out
of its windows because it’s yours & only yours &
0:34 everything deserves someone to mourn for it. But I wasn’t trying
to build a star. I was trying to build a dragon but I couldn’t
0:33 get past the skeleton (its guts got tangled upon more guts
already on the fence) so I wept. So farewell, my beloved
0:32 almost-dragon, my beloved almost-friend, farewell. Farewell
because I have cured nothing; because the more tragic
0:31 the spasms of departure, the more frantic the reunions.
The more frantic the dust, the further it settles
0:30 into the bones (& into the bones of the bones) & so on
& so forth, back into the dust of the ocean, where nothing
0:29 asphyxiates — only accepts everything as true & just
gives up like a cigarette in a puddle but only half
0:28 as dead. In the war between God & man, it’s a stalemate;
the battles between smoke & glass, between tension
0:27 & melody, between my voice & my name have all produced
victors but no one forgives them, so Hallelujah. Hallelujah
0:26 to the water serpents tapping at the salt of a language
that has no vowels so everything comes out gagged
0:25 like it’s lost in some bottled note somewhere, trying to free itself
& locate the finest lily patch off the shore. It wants to rest
0:24 in the petals, to build a raft out of the stems to float
in the bath but it doesn’t have the glue nor the cinder
0:23 to hold it all together, so it teaches itself only about damage.
There are only so many ways one can rearrange
0:22 the letters & still have the same word. So carve it
in the walls, in the trunk of an oak, scratch it
0:21 in wet cement, scrawl: forgive me because my river
blindness never will because I have failed it. My socket
0:20 wrenches are in the drawer above the rug. They are yours
now because everything now belongs to you: my shorthand,
0:19 my ball gloves, all my cheap joints, my memory, all liquids,
the spare pennies in the icebox, so Hallelujah, but rejoice
0:18 for nothing. Who wants something so much
that it aches deep in the clavicle? Who wants something
0:17 as much as I want a cigarette? Who loves something
as much as I loved the brined deep? Ambassadors,
0:16 welcome me. Show me around the corridors
with pictures of torched boats. Greet me at your meals
0:15 as a brother. Serve only rabbit dripping off its bones.
Keep the bars open until they’re dry, pouring whiskey
0:14 like it’s water because it doesn’t matter if something is ruined,
only that it doesn’t know how ruined it is & that the living
0:13 never come up at the barstools. Our wives are over
their heartache. Our children have forgotten us, & such
0:12 is Hell: a gathering of the lost who don’t know
they are lost (who shake in bed at night)
0:11 so Hallelujah. So I tell them to find somewhere
else to crash. Find some other galaxy to admire. Find me
0:10 a bucket for my molars so I can find them
in the morning. Find me some sutures for this gash
0:09 in my clavicle. Make it scab up by first light
so it doesn’t leak on my pillow, so Hallelujah.
0:08 Make it burst in a few weeks. Was I not
a graceful mammal prior to Death? The dull blade,
0:07 and love with all of its razors. When I thought
I could fly. Worshipping nothing
0:06 in its grave. A half-dragon crying
father, why have you forsaken me oh why
0:05 oh why oh why have you forsaken me as he was draining
on a post into the dirt that soaks up what it pleases,
0:04 so Hallelujah. So Dirt, allow what you want:
worms, minerals, a couple Bibles, dirty
0:03 jazz, dirty melody, the handlebars of a bike
with a back tire that is running out of air.
0:02 That is a tribute to youth: an homage
to the violent discourse between science
0:01 & machinery. A brackish argument over
an obvious accident in evolution.



Photo Source:Travis S., Flickr

About The Author

Kirk Pinho

Kirk Pinho lives in the Detroit area, where he is a newspaper editor and teaches English at a community college in Michigan. He received his MFA in poetry from the University of Alabama in 2010 and his BA from Western Michigan University in 2005. His work has been published in The Offending Adam, Comstock Review, Copperfield Review, Laureate, Word Riot, Hot Metal Bridge, and Tuscaloosa Runs This: An eBook of Tuscaloosa Writers