Issue: Spring 2017
Kat Calls About Jesus
I was up all night last night and I can’t decide, she says.
Her voice gravelly but spiking high.
I want to talk about whether Jesus
is the son of God, she says.
At the Oregon Coast, I’m trying
to get away from everything—
there’s nothing like the blue-grey of the ocean sky
just before dark.
You know I don’t believe it, I say,
a bunch of stories written by men to control people.
Yeah, but do you think Jesus is the Son of God? she says.
I tell her: Well, if you’re talking about the structure of it,
like who’s in charge, like a family business—
sure, I guess so.
What do YOU think? I say.
I think Jesus Christ is the Son of God.
Great, I say, it’s settled.
I hate the voices in her head and what they do
to her, hate myself for not wanting to listen.
There’s nothing like the blue-grey of the ocean sky
just before dark—and this dark,
this back and forth means nothing—
voices in her head/voices in mine.
I don’t know anything—
not the reason Kat’s mind takes her swimming
not the reason I agree to talk about it—
Except I wish maybe saying it—
whatever it is—could shift the axis of the world right again.
But it never does, it never works and
the waves crash all night and
the next day, and I’m ridiculous,
looking out this window believing in
water, calling out to the sea and
the swell of spirits, praying
to whatever small gods can hear.
For the Man Who Died on the Track
Edmonton, British Columbia
June 30, 1987
For the man who died at 10 pm,
walking the train tracks in the late June dark,
Can I tell you that we mourned?
The stewards cried, the conductors joked
to hide their fright, the children in coach saw
your body fly by at dusk in the Canadian night.
We stared. I prayed. I read a poem
by Gary Snyder to Alan Watts in memory
of his death, for I didn’t know your name,
though someone said you were a man
And I don’t know if you walked along
the tracks to die and why
you didn’t jump at the whistle?
But I want to tell you that a baby cries
right now, 45 minutes later and the whistle
is blowing longer now
and more often.
It sounds like a cry, a wall
of death and people sit in their rooms,
doors open, and stare, and say
how sad it is.
I think of my dead father and ask him
to help you. I want you to know
that you are mourned.
I sit in a cabin and talk of my dad
and listen to the steward speak of
the death of his grandparents and his
love for them.
I want you to know
that we stopped and prayed and we
cried for you, you the forty-five
year-old man on the tracks on
June 30th, 1987 in the Canadian night.
Gerrie, the train steward, said,
“I don’t know how to feel.”
We looked for your body.
The sirens came.
We stood on the back of the train
with the steam rising and hoped
for your life.
We looked through binoculars, we
looked at each other,
we stopped and mourned.
That summer I had nowhere to live:
the sky was yellow everywhere.
The cars of other people had their own private shine.
I walked slowly.
Several birds re-visited the backyards of strangers,
I was free
singing the song of the last thing I didn’t say to you.