Tuesday, May 20, 2008



We're drawn to the stories whose characters
are unmistakably heroes, no snarky take-down
will be done of them in revisionist history
We know the phrases, even if we've never
left home: South Col, rounding the Cape,
Donner Pass, crossing the Ohio

We can hear the screams of drowning mares
in the horse latitudes. We finger our gums
and eat an orange. We tell our children about
the Latin phrase on the collar of a dog
found with his boy in the ruins of Pompeii

We cry for those who died in a blizzard.
Run down by a wave. Choking on Zyklon B

We cry because we can, it is enough
to cry. We find room in our lungs for breath
after we grieve. Room in our minds
to think of other things.

While all around us are legends
Too close to leave us room

The woman in a wheelchair whose hands
cannot push her forward, so she smiles
and waits, says "Thank you" with emphasis
for the 3000th time.

The paramedic who leaves crying children
with a frightened mother because they've
survived the main tremor, but the freeway
has collapsed. He will not come home until
he's pulled too many bodies to count
from cars crushed like beer cans.
She'll divorce him because he can't talk
about what's inside, because he isn't

The mother serving bare macaroni with salt
and a little tabasco. For dessert last summer's
red plum jam. She tells stories about the
Superstition Mine and Jim Bowie, tomorrow
at school they will have a full tray, maybe
she can borrow from a neighbor again.

We believe what we are taught when argument
can mean shunning or death:
Raping a baby brings good fortune
PTSD is the refuge of a sissy
An unwitnessed rape means death by stoning
Homeless people are addicts who wouldn't stop
A woman who dresses like a man just wants
a dick, one way or another
Hard work always pays off
Changing your mind means you were wrong
to begin with, why should we trust you again

We pull out the worn wooden box and sort
one more time. It's late.
The pain med is not kicking in.
What was I born for, again? Oh, yeah
Fake it until we have another minute
of pure belief. Sometimes
as good as it gets is
as good as it gets.

© Maggie Jochild, 19 May 2008, 7:37 p.m.
For Jesse

1 comment:

letsdance said...

Happy Birthday, Jesse!

Great poem, Maggie.