on the fifth anniversary

–after Pablo Neruda

 

The landscape of water rises from the roaring breath

around you. Your splintered hands rise up to the sky.

 

Abandoned, like the churches at midnight,

you are engulfed by the empire of indecision.

 

Beneath the dome of desolation, decaying footsteps cross

over you and into the lost country of the despondent.

 

In water, the sermons and the accusations dissolve.

From water, the words of the lilies are spoken.

 

Water covers the abandoned.

Like night. And sky.  And waiting.

 

In water, you, the abandoned, die.

 

Here is the collective empire of inaction and curse,

the empire of darkness that screams like a wheel.

 

Listen as mortality’s confusion begins

the insistent sleeplessness of remembrance.

 

In water, you, the abandoned, die.

 

Birthed by rain, your hands rise up.

The hands of the diligent. The hands of the derelict.

 

Water holds the distance and speaks

to grief.  Desperation breaks through the sinking rooftops.

 

And still, in water, you, the abandoned, die.

 

Beneath a new kingdom of stars,

beyond grief and belief, you carry on.

 

With blood, your own blood, those who are believed and beloved,

you stand against water and its impending empire.

 

And yet, in water, you, the abandoned, die.

 

Like a door, water closes a known world,

and, like a door, it opens an unknown destiny.

 

After the rain, under a barrage of sun on the rooftops,

people of remembrance, water’s heart binds you in.

 

There is begging and betrayal, and water has no answer.

For the damp furnace of farewell, water has no cure.

 

So, in water, you, the abandoned, die.

 

You begin to believe water can destroy you

in the palm of her hands, in the tomb of her eyes.

 

How complete and unforgiving is your grief by water!

How desolate and disconsolate; unrelenting and unredeemed.

 

In a grove of curses, water gathers in the children’s lungs.

Dined on by sorrow, the unanswered mothers wail.

 

We cannot hear your sodden laments and your curséd cries.

We will not see the languishing faces behind the echoing voices.

 

On the raging insistence of tide

and wind, you will wander and weep.

 

And in water, you, the abandoned, will die.

 

This is the new territory, as burdensome

as the burlap shroud now covering your face.

 

Beyond the dome of desolation, the abandoned fall into water.

What distance will water not travel, in what distance is it not received?

 

From window to window, water wears

down the resistance.

 

Water rises with the sun and sets on the houses of bones.

It surrounds the despicable arena of the unspeakable.

 

This is the empire of indecision, the decaying

breath exhaled onto the waiting multitude.

 

Abandoned, like the churches at midnight,

the incredulous stars whimper in your arms.

 

 

fowlkesVernon Fowlkes, Jr. is the author of the poetry collection The Sound of Falling (Negative Capability Press, 2013). His work has been published widely in various literary publications, including The Southern Review, The Texas Observer, Willow Springs, Elk River Review, and Birmingham Arts Journal.

Filed under: Poetry

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