Tuesday, May 03, 2005

A Companion to "When Death Comes to Suburbia"

Another poem I wrote in high school. It began as a response to a Santana song, "Put Your Lights On," echoing these lyrics:

Hey now, all you children
Leave your lights on, you better leave your lights on
Cause there's a monster living under my bed
Whispering in my ear
There's an angel, with a hand on my head
She say I've got nothing to fear
There's a darkness deep in my soul

But the poem quickly took a different turn and almost revised itself!

Crossing the Causeway

One step back
Into the land I’ve learned to call home.
The land bridge fades to a misty echo.
Multicolored fish shine like serpents,
Like bright, underwater diamonds.
Fiery coral, swaying in dynamite bursts,
Beats like a heart, and bubbles rise.
The car moves like fluid,
Glides like a boat with its sails open.
Island chains pull the tides in line,
Back in orbit around their sun-glossed shores.

Grandmother’s ghost, thick in the bedroom,
Clings to the forest green sheets,
Sticks stubbornly to the hammock on the lanai,
Rotating in the light, sultry breeze.
I find her memory anchored like barnacles
To the little things she’s left behind:
A shell, a sundress (perfumed), a writing tablet,
A thimble, a bible (frayed), a box of snuff.
As the sky threatens rain, the mangoes droop
Like eyelids a moment before the descent of sleep.
(I cannot believe the houseguests slumber in her bed;
Instead I choose the shadowed den—
REM cycles completed in bare slits of light;
Beyond the door is a blanched prison.)
The whole earth smells of twin sorrows,
The black-white, overlapping tiles of death and life,
Hammering on hamlet windowpanes,
The mirage of an empty house, a painted gate,
The sand in our shoes and the wind in our hair,
The watchman’s lantern that never blinks out,
And the incessant digging for clams under packed sand.
The net was cast, and it rained for days,
The sea just another lacquered book
Laid to rest upon the continental shelf.

The statue of the Virgin stands serenely,
Taller than expected, the silent queen of
The overgrown garden, eyes downcast,
Patiently waiting for decay.
The day is monochrome, and no one comes
To visit her anyway, but here we are.
Pushing aside the iron-wrought fence (gesture of power),
I smile, and she welcomes me,
Flowers in her eyes from those Sundays long past,
When the emerald garden bloomed eightfold in the watery sun.
In the shade of the nearby palms, she glows
From her altar of cracked marble. She knows.
She knows what it is to be pale and forgotten.
We shrug off the ivy,
The blazing heat that turns stones white,
The dampness and the mayflies,
The plagues of our former existence.
She blushes into the Madonna lilies, speaking.
I am Paradise, but what are you?
The whole world is a bridge that has yet to be crossed.


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