Merle Oberon is a vessel of light.
She has the brains to go with the diamonds.
She gives up a jillion dollars and a pretty boyfriend
for the love of music.
When we find what we can’t have,
the whole body hurts, the tongue hurts,
the skull like a teapot.
It starts in the eyes.
If you want to ask something, ask it.
If you want to do something, do it.
Live like that.
My vistas are framed by pine boughs.
Waves on the lake tick like a clock.
I know what I’m entitled to have.
When I am blind, you are blind.
We are two blind people in a city full of eyes.
You take me for walks on the beach.
Stand in smoke and light in front of Carnegie Hall.
The boiled wool of the Great Plains trundles past
our too-big windows on the train.
Light me a torch, will you chum?
I trade boogie-woogie for beer and hamburger.
Music is all I have to live for.
My heart’s an old wastepaper basket.
Merle’s face asleep on a plane,
a child tucked into bed.
The symphony’s over. You can let your hair down
and become human again.
Ward Pottery business card holder.
A gray rabbit looks quizzically
at the space where name and title should appear.
People I’ve helped who help me now.
The gap between train and platform,
reality and expectation, time is running
oblique. The Victorians believed
four humors flow through all of us,
an ocean of bile, islands of flesh.
Dresden was an answer to Coventry. If history
is a country we can visit, then Hitler, Roosevelt,
and Churchill are rag dolls in the future’s toy box,
trading cards in the same hologram deck. Julian
of Norwich asked to be bricked in a wall
in order to get to heaven sooner.
Visitors fed her through a gap in the mortar. I believe that evil
belongs together, Mussolini and the Lockerbie bomber
sitting at the same lunchroom cafeteria table,
and that everything that survives deserves our love. Salvation
is on the other side of the world.
I promise that a detour is a diversion
as surely as I know that we will someday fly outside
the atmosphere for faster travel. Today
a team of British scientists discovered
a monster star ten million times brighter than our sun.
Hell falls away the moment when the boaters on the lake
wave to the tourists on the shore.
James Cihlar is the author of Undoing (Little Pear Press) and Metaphysical Bailout (Pudding House Press). His poems, interviews, and reviews appear in American Poetry Review, Prairie Schooner, Painted Bride Quarterly, Western American Literature, Rhino, and Forklift, Ohio.
For more poetry, visit The Poetry Section's vast archive! You may contact the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.