poems

THE HALF OF IT

Autumn: the slow crush and scrape between solstices,

the bruised reds and yellows, the clock’s foliage.

 

I get it: fall’s rusty shedding brings an end

to the year’s helpless processionals, the end-time scenarios,

 

my unexplained fevers. Year after year,

I didn’t know the half of it.

 

I knew roughly one half, the fretting righteous part.

Aging (I begin to see) makes this plain,

 

asking me to submit to the high noon

of facts. They’re arriving in stone silence.

 

I’m done with false dawns. Their old tricks can’t

reach me now. Something new is coming around:

 

Fall: a sheer shearing in Halloween gusts.

Truth is bracing. I brace for it.

© copyright 2018 Ray Waddle

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AT THE LORRAINE

A motor hotel from the vintage decades,

the family vacation kind when gas was 34 cents –

the long glass windows, unfussy modernism,

ice machine at the stairwell, so trusting.

Stricken now in mid-thought, but standing its ground.

 

The same air that carried his speeches

can also carry a crack of thunder

and, closely behind that, a bullet.

It’s the same air, slack and vivid,

then and now.

 

“Ben, make sure you play ‘Precious Lord, Take My Hand’

in the meeting tonight. Play it pretty.”

His last words, remembered with telescopic precision.

“Precious Lord,” a sweet rebuke to forces gathering

across the street. Forces still steamrolling.

 

Shame had been a useful currency. Then fear replaced it:

the fear of him, across the many precincts and pews.

And vowing never to be caught in a position of weakness again,

fear stood up and took aim out the window. That was then.

Today the motel stands its ground, waiting us out.

© copyright 2018 Ray Waddle

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FIRST PRINCIPLES

Everything was caught in the churn of metaphysics

as usual, the sky-on-fire thunder of it all.

That was its secret: to look unavoidable, unappeasable,

all written down, a storm of first principles.

And for 50 years I agreed yes, calmly taking

its word for it, all the dense fine print,

single-spaced, 10,000 pages of it.

 

And yesterday just as calmly I put it

in a drawer and walked away, not with

flailing worry about The Abyss but simply

the better to see your eyes, and yours,

and feel the gust of your breath, and yours,

and notice hands and faces bleeding

through gauze and linen, not as signs

 

of the coming conflagration but as bone

and flesh and light. And what if this time,

instead of reading anxiously through the night,

we just walked toward those who are gathering

aglow on the street corner. And what if Jesus

was heading in that direction too, not saying much

but signaling it’d be fine to tag along.

 

What if that’s really all there is to it

and all there was, and this was good

not fearful news. Later, when

the whole edifice – the metallic framing,

the incessant talk – did come down, I braced

for a skull-shattering crash. But all was quiet,

as silent as Jesus walking by.

© copyright 2018 Ray Waddle

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