Apr/May 2009 Poetry

Three Poems

by C.E. Chaffin


You feel it in your stomach when you wake
Almost like hunger but peppered with blame
As if you're being hurried by a flame
Forward and forward and forward until you break
Or want to break—anxiety won't allow
A total breakdown, it would lose its grip
On your dry tongue and cold perspiring lip.
(The nervous live in any time but now).
Time future runs ahead, you eat its dust;
Time past is past regret, paralysis;
And all your labor of analysis
Will never birth in you a basic trust.
You wonder, as an infant was it better?
Not if your mother raised you by the letter.


For the Record

I am myself, even in the dark
without mirrors or clues.
I may be as inconsequential
as the point of a fading penlight
but I am not this feeling
of being buried alive.
If I fall through the ice
I am not my hypothermia.
I am not my heart's vacuum's
cruel absence of presence.

There are times this seems specious,
as if I were a Jesuit preaching in a sewer,
hoping echoes could convince me—
but all I have is this distinction.
I hold it in a cup like Christ's blood
as I fall through infinite separations.
I am still here.
I write this for the record.


Leaf Sermon

I have been spiritually poisoned
by the unclean, in ignorance
blessed their springs.
In consequence I withered
and drifted down
from green crown
to brown humus,
thinned to a fish bone pattern
of cellulose threads.

I washed into a stream
past stones squirming
with black question marks
of dragonfly larvae,
slid through reeds
into eddying pools
where I stalled until the rains
delivered me to the sea.
My last proteins fed the plankton
the humpback swallowed,
whose song woke me,
the ghost of a ghost of a leaf,
to the shocking green astral body
from which I speak:

You who seek
thrill without sustenance,
love without burden,
light without heat—
hollow, hollow men,
Tom 'O Bedlam slim:

Your greatest feat
each workday morning
is to pull the sheet
from your own faces
to avoid being wheeled
to the refrigerated cases,
elbows locked in defeat.


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