The Dark Visits
Does a lone vulture perched atop
my wellhouse imply everything
is not well? Even scavengers thirst,
so it may be seeking an opportunity to slake
the dry grating in its parched throat, or soothe
sour flesh past its gullet. Perhaps a servant
to Shinigami, angles its sharp beak to pull
light down to the death spirits who glide
the river coursing the afterworld below,
draining desire from life.
Carcass Seeker or Totem? Peace Angel or
Death Eater? Goddess, Purifier of Life, Omen?
Vulture soars through cultures, through dawn skies, seeking
putrescence, seeking others to invite. Once I spied fifty feathered
undertakers enbranched in rows like spectators in an amphitheater,
bald heads gleaming sunburnt red; two at a time, they hopped down
to gorge in the ark of deer carcass, gore their beaks into the hull
of stomach. Each one tore a plug of organ, snake of intestine,
raised these treasures up to glisten in the light, bit by bit
removing the dead.
Swarms of feeding finch and chickadees
crack sunflower kernels, sunrise communion, against
the lucid edge of the feeder, oblivious to my rough passage
towards morning, or the carnivore talon-grasping along tender
shingles above the underground spring. Vulture tilts a scarlet dawn
towards my window, like the man who stumbled out of a Chinatown
doorway when I was five, completed the fortune in my hand– you will meet
your fate outdoors –by whispering an index finger barrel into my face.
I have never known how to read my life. It ends
where it begins; same words, same questions.
What is coming? Is it for me?
The Organ Harvesters
after the third transfusion
leaked out the sieves
of her son’s wounds
his blood washed
free of the coagulants
needed to thicken and staunch,
the organ harvesters
swarmed the mother
demanding the right to save
they didn’t know
how much damage her son’s
brain sustained in the car crash
felt no pity for his body
dripping like a dollar store
sponge, he had signed papers
awarding parts of himself
to strangers and they had arrived
intent on reaping what the mother
had sown, gleaning
from a field never again to be
turned over, planted,
allowed to ripen.
after his son’s death, sitting in the parking lot outside the post office
he stares across the access road.
yellow machines beaked with shark-
toothed buckets tear the woods to terra-
cotta rubble. snapping on the radio
to talk show blather, he hunches over
one more New York Times crossword,
more intent than the rain splattering
his windows to grease. what words
could he find, must he find, how many
squares fill in before he can fool himself
that the confluence of letters will stop
the oil truck from ripping through his son’s
Toyota? of course it is fantasy, this belief
time can be reversed if only he waits
long enough, face turned away, a letter might
emerge in the silver lozenge of a mailbox nesting
in the shining grid of other small doors, closed yet
hopeful. perhaps, a postmark announcing his boy
transits in Rio or Djakarta; he is not the 23-year-old
meat puppet on a guard rail
they were both travelers in the realm of superstition,
so it is like holding his son’s hand to hunch over newsprint,
listen for a sudden cryptic alert, seek coded messages – it is
as comfortable as tucking the boy into his childhood bed
it is the only way you can even attempt to outwit downfall
Night pushes away the day.
Even still, they continue
to angle their shovels
into the mucky sod. Sparks
flare when their blades strike
granite. Their chins hang down,
mouths fallen open as if to filter
life from air. In the congregation
of dark, the stars go unnoticed.
So the English dealt with famine,
forcing bodies into ketosis, ravening
their own cells; hair and nails fragile,
organs full of toxins, hearts shrunken
to faulty pumps; like love twisted
from joy to doubt, feeding on itself.
And so, too, my dear, we scrape forward,
lift our spades, plunge exhausted
towards a ground we can only hope
to judder against, just as we ask
the brittle bones of our feet, gauzed
in cracked skin, to deliver us,
to finish this road, pray it doesn’t
*During the Potato Famine the British, under the 1847 Labour Rate Act, would force starving Irish peasants to build roads that legally could not go anywhere.
At Monday’s sunset
her practical Toyota
neatly by the locked gate,
removed her shoes,
lined them perfectly
together on the dock
beside the pill bottle
then breathed beneath
the heat-thickened water
of Falls Lake.
I rushed to her house
to find a dazed husband
taping TV shows, a son
smashing vases, guitars,
glass shards speckled
the living room.
Old memories surfaced;
around Charlie’s neck;
in Michael’s mouth.
my friend’s daughter
in the carefree thrall
drove 90 miles per hour
into history. I saw again
one night’s empty highway
the wailing, broken boys,
my friends, their car sliced
in two by the Exit sign,
steam and fluids
None of this happened
to me, yet this shroud bows
down my shoulders, folds
my face into itself.
Even my smiling son
cannot draw me back
with his happy prattle.
Frost was wrong.
The choice is not one
of divergent paths.
The roads not traveled
all threaten bracken ponds,
of blood and darkness
waiting to be seized.
© Richard Krawiec