Counting the Dead

No one is talking about the Dead.
We’re just counting them.
Each day there are more and we think
it can’t get any worse, until they don’t
come back. So we keep counting the Dead.

People made memorials for the Dead
of 2001. Their names are etched in stone.
You can read them on the Internet.
At some point they were read aloud.
But that was only 2,600 Dead. .

We mourned. We wept and flew the flag
and vowed revenge. We didn’t understand
that Death is never satisfied.
We should start reading names today.
Too many Dead to carve in stone this time.

But we don’t call the Dead by name
or say what was done with their bodies,
memories, or redeemed of the time
they should have had to wait as days
of quiet life and love pass by.

We who are dying now will learn
the patience of stucco and sunlight
on glass. Some of us refuse.
There is no one they love enough
to sit in a room with their dust and be still.

J. Kyle Kimberlin
Creative Commons Licensed

Shelter

In the distance, someone beats
a great drum, coming nearer every day.
This old rhythm we don’t recognize,
the days of plague. Those who do not
learn from history are doomed.
Like birds driven earthward to shelter
under bushes by a storm, we wait
for abstract entities to pass.
Son of man, you cannot say or guess
how long. The clock reminds us,
drumming down the hours like high
surf pounding on the rocks.

I have lived in this room for years,
beneath its stucco laqueraria devoid
of cherubim or even birds.
The days called me out into the warm
sea air, to see the intimation of islands
beyond the eucalypti and the bluffs.
Now the invitation is withdrawn;
at least obscured, contingent
on a tolerance of sorrows.
I had not thought the sweet breeze
would rise and bring such sounds
of the inevitable world.

J. Kyle Kimberlin
Creative Commons Licensed

Birth

I just learned that an old friend has passed away. We knew he wasn’t well but I don’t believe even he thought time might be so short. It makes me consider how precious life is. In a sense, life is a series of experiences, each of which slips into the past and is impossible to have again. And each day we say goodbye to the person we were the day before.

I’ve been working on this poem already for already for a few days. This seems like a good time to pull it out of the notebook.

BIRTH

Every birth is a condescension of starlight,
a grand confluence of element and intelligence.
Each arrival a litany of the life-long goodbye,
to the first moment, first face and day,
to sunsets innumerable and hurried
in silence by the turning world.
Goodbye then to childhood. Goodbye to first love,
kiss, car, first earthquake. Goodbye to the last
day of school, to the wood duck and whale,
all blankets and cold lakes, all cloudy spring days.
Goodbye to time and the stubborn way
the planet rocks back and forth forever,
creating spring and all its passionate hope.
Goodbye to yesterday and who we were,
misremembering all the possibilities.
Goodbye to our plans for the end of days
and the Nightland coming and everything
to which we haven’t said hello. Oh God!
Goodbye to dogs, goodbye to you and me.

J. Kyle Kimberlin

Creative Commons Licensed

“Goodbyes make you think. They make you realize what you’ve had, what you’ve lost, and what you’ve taken for granted.”

Ritu Ghatourey

Our House

Everyone I know is uncomfortable.
Everyone wants a different house,
something with glass walls
where they can be seen in happiness.
But farther from people.
Hell is other people.
A quiet house is needed, in the trees,
with clean lines and good bones.
High ceilings to let it breathe deep.
A stone foundation, a garden for butterflies.
A warm kitchen for late night suffering.
Quiet neighbors, preferably dead,
barely whispering if they must.
A kettle on the stove to exhale memories;
A kettle that won’t forget I was here.

J. Kyle Kimberlin
Creative Commons Licensed

Leaf and Shadow

A sycamore leaf floats flat
in a puddle on the black street.
It turns slowly in a shadow
that’s been with you all of your life.
And nothing can be done.
Everyone cares but no one comes
to help. Step over it, go on across
so long as the signal allows
into the bright coffeehouse.
The one where the woman
plays guitar sometimes.
Find a table with good light.
Order something with hot milk.
Order warm bread.
Be benevolent with the tip.
Remember all memory is fleeting.
Forget how far you have come in the rain.
The shadow still falls on the notebook,
on every page, despite the lights
overhead and the bright conversations
of others whose children are in school,
who never saw the leaf on the broad
green tree, making shadow; the leaf
that fell and died to bring you here.

J. Kyle Kimberlin
Creative Commons Licensed

Vanishing Point

I miss you but you’re dead
and I don’t know what that means,
beyond words and their delusions.
Everything is so mysterious.
I can’t go where you’ve gone
until I’m called.
Even then, is it a journey within Being
or a vanishing point?
No one knows but we still have today
this hazy summer ending soon,
the life around us torpid and drunk
with light. Even you belong here,
Being remembered, still part
Of everything so mysterious.

J. Kyle Kimberlin

Creative Commons Licensed

Home

There are many names for home.
Safety is one of them, into which we lock ourselves,
or simply the place of all slipping away.

The flowers fading on the table
don’t know they’ve been cut,
affirming only being where they belong.

At home there is always a clock
that no one has wound, compelled
to tick by the steady unwinding of hope.

I have meat ye know not of, Christ said,
meaning a kind of home. Many mansions,
brighter than time and far beyond.

So God is another name for home,
and time because everything here
is a memory, mind returning to another world.

J. Kyle Kimberlin

Creative Commons Licensed