Excerpt from a Poem “The Emptiness”

Here are my favorite lines from Carl Adamshick’s poem “The Emptiness” (I believe it’s taken from his book Curses and Wishes: Poems (think I found it in either The Seashell Anthology or Good Poems for Hard Times ??)–or maybe A Book of Luminous Things –Czeslaw Milosz (my favorite anthology of poetry of all-time :

 

“…the forked branch of my existence
was lit like a crack

of lightning.
My breath, my tongue, the broken font

of my voice had wanted to praise.
And when I didn’t speak

I became a secret, a testimony
against my own body. I lived
and lived

with the fact that I watched others
struggle and pray.

I watched them lie on the shore
with their heads adrift in a shine if stars

and wanted their hunger
to finally consume their sad,
hurting bodies.

I watched, hoping
when the tide came and lifted them away

I could live without shame.
The emptiness. The tongue bound

to the betrayal held in the mouth,
to the apology held

in the mouth, to the brutal remains
held in the socket of the mouth.

And still, under it all,
I feel an orchid, the cold river flow

around my feet. I see the stars
as the shimmering bones

Of migratory birds
and swallow the humiliating taste

of beauty. I am the dirt,
the worm-dirge, the lament and procession

winding through a garden burning
with flowers.

I am not the body that dies naked,
swollen and torn,

infested with beetles.
I am not the body that lacks

the funeral and its offering of plums.
I am not the body,

the empty midnight station.
I am not the bombed-out factory…

…I am the severed hands of a war

and feel it escape into me like a tired lover

I am comfort into the dark hours,
where my body, swathed with heat

and sorrow, listens to air
pass through the gate of its teeth.

…When light around the field is spilt moon
and memory is a nest

of mud and grass hidden in the bright
summer branches,

when emptiness is an open door,
the well-black pupil of an iris.

I am lost in the living, in the acceptance
of rain filling a bucket,

in the belief
that the chemical burn was a washing

for the exodus
and the smoke rising through
the chimneys

into the pale-blue morning was
a love song.
There are days when I wake

and find my face is a hole
and I have nowhere to hang my
mask.”

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