Talking To My Children

Originally published in 2002 in my chapbook, “In Here Is Out There.”
Original title, “Talking To My Son About The Night.”

I have been thinking: 
what do I tell my children 
about Evil? Something wicked
in these days stirs,
and I cannot lie to them
and say shh, be still,
all is well and safe.

What shall I say to them of Evil?

I shall say:
it is a young man 
holding a knife to a lamp.
He adores how it separates 
skin from flesh, 
sinew from bone. 
He knows that when it is sharp enough
he can see the body’s coherence 
fleeing before its edge.

I shall say:
it is a woman 
leaning out of her window
on her elbows.
She sees something she does not favor. 
She slips out the back door
to carry her gossip to the slaughterhouse.
Someone there will take the news to the mechanics
who will set the wheels 
of the juggernaut
for maximum kill.

On her way home
she will wipe her face with a stolen liver.
Behind her she will leave a trail
of rumors and cartilage.

I shall say
it is a gaggle of children 
trapped in a dream
where they are made to suckle straws 
filled with their own blood.
They purse their pale lips, 
draw the red up, columns red rising,
red cresting in their mouths, 
falling red into their stomachs, 
such sharp nourishment, 
such a simple lesson:
living through this 
requires such a meal, 
a simple meal for a simple terror.
They have learned 
to devour themselves.

I shall say:
it is in and on all of us.  
We stink of rich meats, phobias, fires,
restless pride, secrecy. 
We inhabit our stereotypes, 
are slowed to the speed of custom, 
our houses crawl with indignation,
our ferocity is unbridled by logic, 
we create atomic proverbs to live by.

A man decides to force himself 
on the next random passer-by;
a boy slits an ancestor’s throat; 
we shake our heads, we cry out
for safety, we wait for it
and it never comes; instead comes 
the Evil: violent, clean cut, simple, fast;
and then, somehow,
we tell ourselves
that we can live forever 
this way.

And after that?
After that, what can I possibly say 
to them?

I will say to them:
children, it is slander 
to speak of this life
and only note the Evil.

I will say to them:
children, my children, 
look at the stars.

I will say to them:
children, my children,
whenever you despair
of this world, take comfort in the night:
go out, lie back, and look at the stars.

I will say yes, there is always horror afoot
by day and by night,
but always, always, we have the stars,

and if ever you despair,  
look up at those hints 
of the hoped-for forever
and tell yourself:

I am a star, 
and I do not
shine alone.

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About Tony Brown

A poet with a history in slam, lots of publications; my personal poetry and a little bit of daily life and opinions. Read the page called "About..." for the details. View all posts by Tony Brown

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