Friday, June 23, 2017

Can These Bones Live?

Can These Bones Live?
(6th of 6, in The Valley of the Shadow)

They say the tidy house is haunted.
A museum perhaps 
with awkward displays of an earlier time, 
relics of some previous family, some earnest life,
Elgin Marbles for safe keeping of course, 
another’s crisis a pretext for theft.
The door opens at our knock,
We enter this strange world, 
without solidity, 
without grounding.
Ghosts maintaining all is well,
Normal, fine.
Stay in the sitting room, please,
Where everything is just so.
Pay no mind to the weeping upstairs.
We are so much better off, yes sir.

But the walls hold a different story.
Witness to what he did, what she did,
What was said and why. But
Hasty graffiti defaces nuanced history 
With easy blame, 
crass slogans repeated so often
they become reality 
believed by no one who knows,
except the one who sprays the paint, 
Who daubs her conscience
With convenient stories as useful as 
a blanket too thin
on a cold night.

The familiar kitchen fades and 
I’m standing in a desert place.
Withered scrub, rocks upon rocks, 
Powdered dust flicks up by a gust
Whirls away, the devil’s gritty laugh.
And bones.  The ground is littered with bones.
Disarticulated and white.
Eyeless, jawless skulls, with half grimace
Or mocking grin.  
Everywhere I look, I am with the dead.
Once so beautiful in their youth, their strength, their confidence.
Now destroyed, now scattered, now dust.  
Their boasts come to nothing.
Some battle, some conflagration, some terrible war
Brought them to this end.  
And all their plans. And all their hopes.  And all they were.
He never went home again.  
His place in bed still cold and vacant.  
He never returned to raise a glass, to laugh with friends,
 embrace his children. 
To cook, to clean, 
To fill his home with music, 
Pull weeds from his garden.  
No more quiet delight from a piece of strawberry pie.  
No more running the country roads.  
A stone sunk to the bottom, whatever ripples have spread to nothing.  
She too is dead, their life now ended
Along with hers.
But like some desperate shade clinging to a tree in the setting sun 
she pretends it isn’t so.
Grasping this new phantasmic world of her own making.
Paid counsellors, old friends and new - a veritable Greek chorus - 
cannot believe she was treated so, so - 
How badly were you treated again?  We must believe her.  
She’s always right, you know.
Oh the awfulness of being married to someone like that man.  
Poor thing. You are so much better off.
Shouting their encouragement, cheering their own advice, 
No need to check revision with reality,
Assured of God’s approval, God’s approbation, God’s blessing.
Clanging gong, clashing cymbal.

Light show for the blind, leading cheers for the deaf.
Just because I close my eyes doesn’t mean it isn’t there.
Refusing to open the book does not make the history disappear.
Driving out the inconvenient voice does not change the truth.
She is as dead as I am, and we together, our bones lie bleached and scattered.
Not the intermingling embrace to which we were called.
And a new life that ignores the old will repeat its mistakes, its demise.
Can these bones live?
Not by any casuistry already attempted, nor furious blame, 
Not by holding close the carefully crafted shields we use to deflect the other.
But our anger is so justified - the lies, the deception, the abuse, the rage, 
We would rather nurse at these twin fat breasts of resentment and contempt
Than save ourselves, and save each other.
Can these bones live?
They are very dry, these bones, and scattered.
We have done our very best to separate what God himself put together.
And now we are ghosts, the curse that came from you driving me away, 
And me in turn cutting you off.
Can these bones live?
I hold out my hand again,
Though I see nothing in you that gives me hope.
I hear nothing from you that makes me think anything will ever change.
My own efforts miss the mark and do nothing.
Can these bones live?
Can these ghosts be saved?
Unless. For some reason.
Are not yet done.

With us.

The antidote to all this death will take us through here.