by Michael Williams (December 2020)
Two People Under a Light, Geng Jianyi, 1985
Single Life Blues
Formless lover, realize!—
Satisfy my pining eyes
And be that concrete ecstasy
For arms now clutching vacancy.
All the transport and elation
I harvest in imagination
(Call it fancy, call it lust)
Is a diet but of dust.
I need substantial meals to feed
My hungry soul, my heart-sick need.
Take shape, my love, that you may be
Exiled from my fantasy,
Springing foreigner into
This kingdom of the real and true,
And my devotion naturalize
As citizen, my dream and prize.
You in the flesh, my longing quelled,
We shall in youthful raptures meld.
A warm and damp reality,
A private Eden we’d create,
Our twain appetites to sate.
Relaxed, perpetual embrace,
Eyes tethered to adoring face
(Wherefore into the soul to peer),
Whispers caress the tender ear
And breath upon the tingling neck,
As intrepid fingers trek
About the peaks and valleys of
The body of the one I love.
The chattering of wind-blown leaves
Filter, as they slip the eaves,
Through windows, beacons of the night:
Pearly lunar, stellar light.
And by this muted brilliance blessed
We’d drift into contented rest;
Our heartbeats synchronized in sleep
While angels silent vigils keep.
But for my pining, I can’t find
You manifesting from my mind;
For all my aching passions roused,
My hermit-bed remains half-housed.
Half a soul inhabits me—
A gentle type of misery.
for Lucy Fudge
Pain has an empire over me
And spans my many members;
And as I live, there’s fuel to feed
The conquest’s burning embers.
Expansive is the agony
Whose reign is ‘round me girt,
With multitudes of tribes— diverse
Imperium of hurt.
Tyrannical of my existence,
My very personality
Is but its vassal nation:
The deluge of experience
And life’s capacity
Is dammed into a tiny stream
Of sore mundanity.
I have naught else; this misery
Informs my every breath.
A pregnancy perpetual,
Delivered but by death.
And yet, more galling than my plight
Are hearts of stone and ears
Of steel, when indeliberate swells
A looming tide of tears.
The slam of pity’s door to mute
My song of suffering—
No likewise melody could vent
The pungence of this sting;
The litany of judgment aired
In stupid, cruel emissions
As if the callous fools I love
Were suddenly physicians;
Their strange, indifferent flippancy
Gives me no space for peace,
Nor do their torrent of demands
And expectations cease;
I writhe in agony in bed,
Into a ball I’m curled—
But am expected, Atlas-like,
That I should bear their world.
Clinicians, practicing their art
In treatment of my ill,
Regard me as a lump of ore
That passes through a mill.
As bloodless as a statue’s bronze;
Routine as a file clerk;
Cold as a glacier to my woe:
The doctor at her work.
Cycling sickness to a salve
(The latter fails again);
My symptoms chase their remedy
And I remain in pain.
Self-piteous? Indeed, I am—
But judge me not too strict:
Were this distress and succor’s dearth
Your own self to afflict
You’d understand adversity
And even might be crushed
Beneath that understanding’s weight,
And judgment would be hushed.
My only recourse is to faith
So, when of tears I tire,
I place my trust in God and pray
A rosary of fire.
Michael Williams is a Catholic convert, a crude man of letters, a bleeding heart and a goofball. He—like St. Francis—is wedded to poverty, but with moderate success. His interests (apart from writing) include smoking cigarettes, drinking beer and whiskey, reading history books, playing chess, and entertaining his friends. He lives in Anchorage, Alaska with his faithful kitty, Olivia. He has been published in the St. Austin Review and the Catholic Anchor.
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