Were it not for the rain
beginning, big drops slapping
the gravestones, then spreading
like wounds, or smacking
the leaves overhead, first
one, then another, until
I stand beneath a chorus of mumbling
and leaves trembling — thus the rain
marks its passage through time, steadily
darkening what it touches,
and makes indistinguishable the moments
by narration in a monotonous voice —
were it not for the rain I’d stay.
I’d lean against this tree, and admire the beauty
of the weeping girls, the marble
twins who kneel together above a grave,
their white backs bent
in grief, their draped clothing conforming
here and there to the curve
of a breast, a hip, a thigh, while live
roses lie in their laps.
There have been times when I
was the one on the left,
hands folded between her knees,
withdrawn, almost inconsolable,
and times I was the other,
who embraces her sister, kisses her
on the round shoulder.
At any time, both
live in me
like sister branches of one tree,
the comforter and the comforted.
I am the father who comforts
his son, and I am the son
who returns in later years to give succor
to his father. I am the one
who walks among the dead,
and the one who waits
at home with warm bread and milk,
the way, I know, someone waits for me.
I recall an afternoon
we lay together, she
curled sideways and atop me, my body
cradling hers, which had been growing
round with our second son.
Lying that way,
her full hip fit
between my hip bones,
and with a gravity not unlike desire,
it conjured sadness
in my loins, almost pity.
O weepers, stone
girls weeping stone tears,
will you never recover?
Were it not for the rain, I’d linger
and maybe I’d weep.
But I’ll do neither today, while someone
waits for me, and the rain
touches me, touches us
over and over, changes each of us,
shoulders and lips, roses and stones,
my love and the world,
all things which fit well.
~ Li-Young Lee
It turns out the whole sky is a wall.
It turns out we all drink from history’s footprints.
One day the stones seemed to open like flowers
and I walked over the orphaned ground for my brother.
Even now I can count every barb in the wire.
The stars were covered with sand.
The sandstorm had almost covered the body.
I dug around him, covered him myself.
Today, each memory is a cemetery that must be
tended. You have to stand clear of the briars of anger.
You have to wash revenge from your eyes.
Sophocles kept seeing me as a bird
whose nest is robbed, screeching hysterically.
In another place a flock of birds tear themselves apart
to warn the king of what will happen to his state.
I don’t know who I am. I hardly said a word.
I think Sophocles knew what I might mean,
and was afraid. Everything I did was under
one swoop of the owl’s wing. Who is anything
in that time? And he never listened.
Even the sentry’s words dropped their meanings
and fumbled like schoolboys forgetting their lessons.
What I dug up was a new word for justice,
a whole new dictionary for love. But why did my own
love desert me? He came too late. He was
another foolish gesture from another age. What I tried
to cover with dust was the past, was anger, was revenge.
Now you can see it all in mass graves everywhere.
You can see it in the torture chambers,
the broken mosques and churches, the sniper scopes.
You can see it in the women raped by the thousand.
Who is any one of us in all that?
Who was I? I’ve become someone’s idea of me.
You can no longer read the wax seal of the sun.
The trees no longer mention anything about the wind.
I don’t see who could play me later on.
It turns out I am buried myself.
It turns out we are all buried alive
in the chamber of someone else’s heart.
~ Richard Jackson
Music by Leann Rimes, “Amazing Grace”