I. I’m not sure all these people understand
You see bodies like broken dolls free-falling
onto the clean and deserted pavement.
Blood slides out of tiny crevice and huge chasm wounds
and joins the shells of flesh as they collapse and land
onto the asphalt. You swear that you can see
breath exiting as the bodies hit the ground – but the breath
always climbs upward, leaving its old ribcages behind.
Now, there is nothing left but smoke and desolate silence as
crumpled bodies and crumpled trucks lay empty
underneath the orchid, scarlet, and maize colored dawn.
Suddenly there is only blackness –
you fall from dreams into waking –
and land with a sudden jolt –
and there is only you, your trembling limbs,
your quivering nerves running scared up and down
the length of your body,
and the half-lit cloak of night that kept you company
while you slept. You sit up, shirtless and sweat-drenched,
the survivor of yet another head-on collision
between you and nightmare.
II. I forgot my shirt at the water’s edge
You break the water’s membrane. Diamonds
tumble off your skin, free-falling in droplet haiku
that catch the light of a halcyon sun. You stand,
rooted for a moment in the sand and water where
ocean and Manifest Destiny meet: this is where the West ends
and you begin. You are naked, cleansed, and unspoiled,
just like you were years ago before the nightmares began.
And for a moment, you forget about everything:
Time easing its sand grains through fragile blood vessels,
your shirt lying placidly in a wrinkled heap on the sand,
and the broken bodies free-falling through your dreams.
III. every streetlight a reminder
Shirtless, you rise from your bed and
gaze out the window, leaning forward,
resting your palms on the window pane.
A Cimmerian nighttime burial shroud
made out of shadow and quiet is draped around
your shoulders, hair, and back:
only your face and bare chest blaze coolly
with the half-dying sallow light of the street lamps
laying a few yards beyond your window.
They lift their torches like worn-out sentinels
over the black mirror street below them that
lies slick and battered with the night’s endless rain.
It is 5:00 A.M., and the only open eyes
belong to you, the streetlights, and the rain.
This time, there are no more nightmares, only
the battered wisdom of cramming sixty years into twenty-five
that settles in your bones, your sleep-bereft brain,
and the nagging cough that keeps you awake at night.
Can you feel it now?
The hourglass grains are free-falling through your chest.
IV. the moon is low tonight
Highways are endless,
and shorelines are endless. The moon
is also endless where water and land collide,
where the West ends and you once again
begin: this time, it is Elysian here. There
are no more nightmares, no more broken bodies free-falling
and landing next to crumpled trucks; no more vacant nights, no more
standing alone in a loveless and lonely gloom;
no more nagging cough,
and no more wondering if anyone understands.
I still try to understand, and
I always will. Sometimes, I flip through a book of poems
to see if I find your words there. Sometimes, I listen
to the wind to see if your voice rides it to my ears.
And sometimes, I visit the same beach in my own dreamscape
and let handfuls of its sand slide through my sieve hand: for I know
that one of these nights, a droplet cast off your skin
that became a diamond will rest in my palms,
begging to be cleaned, shined,
and taken home with me. I will never be content
to walk away with nothing.
Written 12/2/11, 12/6/11, and 12/7/11
Original material © 2011 Nicole Nicholson. All Rights Reserved.
Material in italics © 1992 R.E.M. Athens, Ltd.
This poem was written for We Write Poems Prompt #83, “All Good Things”. In this prompt, I suggested looking at an ending, writing about it, and at the same time trying to imagine what happens beyond that ending. I don’t know if I answered my own prompt well, but I did give it a try. I hope you enjoyed the poem.