Friday, October 2, 2015

Martin Willitts Jr. - Last Moments / Underglow

Last Moments

In a hospital, a person’s chest intensifies
while stifled, hourly. Last Rites are administered.
The person receiving is slightly aware they are dying.

The last to go is that green space they want to explore.
The Angel of Mercy had sulked away.
Death is measuring a coffin.

Prayer is not going to resurrect the dead.
The best they can pray for is forgiveness,
easing into death like sitting on a comfortable chair.

They do not want to see God with a ledger book;
nor notice how unjust it is
to have their life-force tugged out of them.

When they were alive, they recited Chapter and Verse,
and it did not halt their eventual death.
While alive, they never practiced what they preached.

God had a murky face.
The doctors have written them off.
Death was filling out the final paperwork.

A calendar of mistakes unraveled.
Nurse scrubbed their sweat like it was Christ’s suffering.
They took pulses, checked for signs.

So this is what it is all about,
discovered the patient,
we are glimpses of what we should have been.

If only I have known
I might have done more with my life,
believed with actual belief.

Words burn when you do not know what to say.
Thousand pray one way or another,
searching for the right words to say.


There is an underglow at the moment
of passing. Light burrows out of darkness.
Our skin is covered with silvery sheen
like the cherries polished by spring rain.
The terribly hard days flood by —
gone to where they are not needed anymore.

Light finds us, through layers of clothes,
woolen blankets, cool sheets
smelling of orange-sunshine. Light
always finds the hidden and exposes it,

Our hair reminds light of damp earth
when buds first break free
like in a rapture, like they cannot wait
or cannot get enough of it.

God is no longer untouchable.
We are cleansed. Our bones
are transitory voices, flocking like geese
practicing for that long journey
to an end they could not imagine —
but, there it is, the end in sight,
calling from the distance,
come here, come here,
I am waiting for you. 

We reach what we have been reaching for
and it is more than we expected it to be.

These poems are from a long collection of poems about "The Burned Down District" in New York which gets its name from the religious revivals in the 1880's after the Erie Canal and before the Civil War.

Martin Willitts Jr is a retired Librarian living in Syracuse, New York. He was nominated for 11 Pushcart and 11 Best of the Net awards. He provided his hands-on workshop “How to Make Origami Haiku Jumping Frogs” at the 2012 Massachusetts Poetry Festival. Winner of the 2012 Big River Poetry Review’s William K. Hathaway Award ; co-winner of the 2013 Bill Holm Witness Poetry Contest; winner of the 2013 “Trees” Poetry Contest; winner of the 2014 Broadsided award; winner of the 2014 Dylan Thomas International Poetry Contest.

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