We’re not from here. We don’t aria, we warble.
We wore suits to get here, rumpled by the hot car ride.
Pumped our own gas. In Heaven two days,
still the custom shirtlessness offends. Like it’s the g-d
French Rivera. (You say it yours. We’ll say it the right way.)
Nor do we au revoir. We eat without speaking, hunched over
our plates at the picnic tables. We prefer paper.
It’s not we’re unfriendly, but its our particular
God Almighty we won’t give up. First Sunday here,
and we’re missing Shirl and Jesse, who started
smoking again. Clove cigarettes, of all things.
What Heaven don’t stock Reds soft packs?
Then Tony stopped stopping by, on account
he works overnights at the baby factory,
low on the totem: cranial deformities.
Well it’s a job. It’s enough to crack your heart.
We stay up drinking slurpee-and-rums outside
the Kum & Go. Who knows how long them hot dogs
have roasted on the carriage, under the eternal heat lamp.
Everything here is an effigy to hunger. Time moves
not at all when all the clocks are confiscated. I am terrified
I will begin to speak in the first person about pleasure.
Stop wearing underwear to our “To Hell with Heaven”
meetings. They give us new names, say forget Louisville.
This here’s all the village you need. We lose every day
more folks to Heaven’s gen pop. We left the earth
but the memory turns us over in its hot light.
The Chief Risk Cherubim say unlearn the love of gravity
and then the earth can leave us back. Psychobabble mumbo
jumble. We dream of opening a garage but ain’t bum starters
nor oil changes no more. The technology outlived us.
There’s a choice to be made between the past,
the present tense. We are failure-angels, plain
and redneck, we’re going to fall down to the earth
we can’t stop loving, find our families and touch
their faces angrily. But first we will edge with pink
and yellow peonies our graves, our graves
which remind our deaths daily: redeem us.
Copyright © 2017 by James Allen Hall. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 13, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.