sirach 43:8

i

having walked sixteen miles into the grey abyss of november
across sycamore creek bottomlands, then turning wrong and

finding pockets of the city where streets are not even paved
and where the houses match the streets,

i startled some deer as the night gathered;
i always like it, where else will i

ever be taken for a wolf? leaves upset and blurry kicking,
white flags and a buck in profile, five points melted

into the grainy woods beyond, you know how, no
noises past our little discourse there.

ii

i always thought of you on walks like this
when the shadows used to get long and catch me

like your face still would, if i saw it,
but i will not have that calamity. i told a certain one not once

but many times that i would lie in the middle of richmond road
for you—to demonstrate what, you might well ask—and i would

say it’s all i could do to keep from exploding then and there—
the weight of events would catch such fire, oh,

if i ever saw you in that way. and it still is, probably,
but i think about you less, all by the great manna of being busy.

if i ever saw you again, i would confess my love to the
soil i was buried in, bruising my wrists on the mahogany,

gesticulating. but i am increasing wonderfully in my changing here,
you know, even in a land i hate.

iii

i will admit that when it was really getting dark
after willard avenue; when i had to cross the cemetery

i did feel pangs, the air no longer breathing for a while
as i made steady for aurelius and mt. hope, stifled moonlight

making cobblestones of the leaf litter. suddenly the dead rose
and i was back downtown bawling my eyes out like no one could see,

canned rihanna piping down empty streets like it usually did,
sure before the supreme deity of the universe that i

was the most unfairly killed of all prophets,
the most cruelly beaten down, here in nineveh

where nothing green can thrive. and then a new voice:
but oh, robin, it was three years ago,

oh, oh, oh, look what has been
made to grow here in nineveh.

iv

slain demons flash in the dark like phantom limbs:
oh, i am not used to their absence.

do you remember hitting that deer on penn? how hopeless
in that moment all you felt? or the bullet-pointed

ypsilanti sleet on the day you felt it was all over?
and a hundred-odd mundane evasions of company of people

you might have let in on the squalor of davis avenue? the night,
driving one back home down collins—i think in the first month

of this adventure—boring her and yourself talking about moravians
and deciding you would do best to forget them all? the calm

bitterness of twenty thousand hours walking shoeless
through the rain down from the m.l.k. bridge—no,

you will never forget. but what will we do now
in victory and freedom? oh, robin, oh;

i wish you would see
what has grown in nineveh.

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