a monster I cannot slay
lurking around me
inside my tired self
waiting for me to fold
into a mess
into a pile
into a crazy fucked up shell of myself
in my imagination
as the ultimate
WHAT the FUCK?
I scream in acrimonious rage
At a no-faced God.
From the bowels
Of rank self-pity
Where white-hot fury
Is a cancer immune to any chemo
I rail at that invisible puppeteer,
That omniscient bastard of a Jesus
Who says nothing
Not a freak'n word
Just sits in silence
In the room of my faith
Staring me down, before
As if to say
As if to say
Because I FEEL like it
To more clearly hear the questions
To see if I am who I say I am
Or if I am not
I go to find myself
Inside this tiny room
With its wooden walls
And two small chairs
Rocking on the scarred floorboards
I go to listen
To the creaking
And to the branch against the window pane
And to the echo of my soul
To hear what season it is
To hear whether I am
Springing to life or
To come back
To face the winter or spring
To embrace death or re-birth
And return, wiser, unfettered
To the far wilder
Seasons of the world
Shhhh. I am praying to Lucifer.
“You know who he is don't you?”
He is sitting, I am standing.
He is here to be served, I am here to serve,
“Well,” I tell him, “I guess this is a pretty safe place to have that conversation."
We are in the basement of a church facing each other across a thin plastic table cloth wiped clean of coffee hour spills and sugar grains but ripped in places.
“Don't ya got a newer one?” he asks.
Not accusing, just pointing out the indignity.
He has been here an hour.
Lunch is an hour away.
“I'mm talking to the dark man — the devil,’’ he reminds me seconds later as if I have forgotten while placing his fork and spoon.
I withhold the knife. A butter knife, but you never can tell.
“You go right ahead,” I tell him. “Better that you finish your conversation before you eat.”
I turn away to give him his solitude.
I imagine Lucifer likes his space too.
“He says Happy Easter,” the man says.
For a second I am unsure if he means himself or the devil.
I remain optimistic and hand him a small paper napkin, the kind you find at the K-Mart deli counter.
Across the room, the doors spill open as the dingy and cold straggle in, shuffling en masse with their plastic bags and walkers and multi-layered clothes.
They have been delivered, saved from hunger and maybe boredom by city bus number 36, which rolls away infinitely lighter; the strong smells of unwashed bodies and un-brushed teeth and the heaviness of the lonely, homeless, and mentally strained safely delivered.
Leading the throng is The Diva.
I am not sure where she gets her hats. Always a new one, always big over matted hair, dyed an unbelievable black —cassock black, which seems right.
Beneath that hat is the face of a very old woman proud behind heavy foundation and eye charcoal and bright pink lipstick; unconcerned that these are all melting down her pale powdered face.
She sits and beckons and with whiskey breath whispers in my ear:
“They are out to kill me, you know.”
“No,” I tell her. “I didn't know. Who are they?”
She doesn't answer, just sips her coffee looking ominous but not exactly disturbed.
“Me and him just got married,” she continues, pointing to a man she's never seen before sitting across the table.
"Well,” I conspire. “What a great place to have the reception! Congratulations.”
The new husband chooses a new table, far across the room, mumbling.
Clatter, clatter, clack – the sound of metal forks on thick cafeteria china, of spoons falling to the ground and a dropped pot in the kitchen, background music for this strange show of need.
It's a homey noise for the old-timers; a shaming noise for the new ones, who sit dazed, wondering how they got here and when it will be over.
“Just rice and vegetables,’’ says a slender, elfish man. "I'm a vegetarian.”
I am happy for him, despite his circumstance, remaining faithful to his dietary values.
Inspired by his audacity, the woman next to him puts out her shortcake bowl for more strawberries.
“I got only had a few and I don't like my cake dry,” she demands.
I scoop strawberries by the spoonful.
She is here to be served. I am here to serve.
The meal complete, they pack up their bags, wrapping leftovers in recycled plastic tubs or flimsy napkins, sticking things in pockets and packs and purses.
They generate the obligatory murmur of thanks, looking through me, but meaning it.
Just as fast as they came, they go; out the doors, onto the streets, back to the 36 bus or ambling away alone.
And I watch them, wondering how they got here. And how I got here.
And who, exactly, served whom.