what to do when the missiles come (at last)

1962

 

watch the moon through crystal skies one time,

telescope your life into the week it takes

to build a crisis into chaos,

then,

crawl beneath your desk,

press your head against your knees

and take up all the burdens of the world,

the weight,

slam the door just opened

and learn about equality

as suddenly as thunder,

then,

forget about your first steps into logic

and see the one great, simple truth:

reasons can be found for doing anything

to anyone,

in any way,

at any time;

there will be no quiz,

just a final

 

 

folded shirts, penknives

 

thoughts, folded, put away like clothing waiting to be worn,

tried on only when we are alone

and think that no one understands;

no one asks about the silence of our wisdom,

so it sits in dark like dated shirts

below the top drawer of the dresser and its stew of odds and ends:

a penknife that we had to have, once,

its reason long forgotten;

photos growing older every day

until the faces and the fashions fade,

like cars once new, now tired as an old idea;

watches stopped at random like friends who came and went;

a ring that once said everything,

silent now like books we thought we’d read;

all these things still moving like the steeple in the rearview mirror,

once the edge of everything, the front,

now fading back as we go ever on;

 

these things we’ve kept to save time in a jar

like fireflies when we were kids,

things we will not send out to the curb,

these salvaged words of life;

what do they say that we cannot resist?

is this our sad rebuttal to the reasoning of time,

or just our failed argument, the ‘you can’t have this’

markers from the road we can’t take back?

or are they like the folded shirts below,

baggage from the miles spent,

or provisions for some journey yet to go?

 

 

monologue

 

he was talking,

but he didn’t care who saw,

sitting by the flat gray stone

as if beside an altar,

white shirt brilliant,

red face torn,

careworn once again, anew,

six years since it changed forever;

legs stretched out

parallel with hers

as they always were,

side by side,

stride by stride

so many years,

there to share where words refused to go

though he was sure she heard;

“everything we say is talking to ourselves,”

he learned when he was young,

and so it was along that hill,

muted marble markers

warming in the sun

that cut into the letters, dates

carved upon the rocks

beneath the endless sky

that smirks at him,

at all of us

as it passes in its hubris overhead

 

 

Standing in Line

 

Moving forward toward the front, the edge,

wherever this is heading to,

this herd, a rosary

as fingers count the beads

leading to the draggle

of the crucifix;

 

impatient at the back

standing on our toes to see,

we peek beyond the queue,

jealous though we do not know

the space beyond horizon, shadow.

We do not know

what waits for us in front,

though we all will get to see it

soon enough.

 

John Kristofco

 

John P. (Jack) Kristofco’s poetry and short stories have appeared in about two hundred publications, including: Slant, Folio, Rattle, Fourth River, Santa Fe Review, and Cimarron Review. He has published three collections of poetry and has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize five times.

 

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