Alternate Self-Portrait

Dean Rader

One day

I will drift

into darkness

and know it

perhaps

the way a son

recognizes a mother

after he has returned

from many years

of travel

understanding

the new distance

is neither

beginning nor

end

only stillness
 

More by Dean Rader

Self-Portrait in Charleston, Orlando

The news this morning
said that Ramadi
had fallen to ISIS
and that the president
did not have a plan
to push them back
into the Anbar province
though I have a plan
to walk down to the
beach in silence perhaps
where I will stand
in water the temperature
of most corpses
and look out over
the shapeless ocean—
its waves shifting from
one color to the next,
this moment the shade
of an old bruise—
toward Japan,
which I imagine I see
across the map of
motion, that mystical
country which has
almost completely
ridden itself of guns,
like the one the boy
used to shoot nine
people assembled
to worship a man whose
skin history tells us
was the same color
as theirs, that mythical
man who may have walked
the streets of Ramadi in
those missing years
between his youth and
his destiny, and who
knows how many
of the slain
he may have raised
in those streets,
or pulled up out
of night into the
long daylight of the
not-yet-lived,
birthed back into
the skin of suffering,
or how many the man
might have dipped
into those mythical waters
that eventually emptied into
the Gulf of Oman and then
into the Arabian Sea
before their long walk
of waves across
time and history
to South Carolina and
into Charleston
but then retreating to
work their way down
the Eastern coast of
Florida and perhaps
even inland to
Orlando and then
back out again around
every country, every
boat, every body before
arriving on the beaches
of San Francisco on
the far end of the other
side of that mythical
continent, perhaps
even where I am
standing, the water’s
color like a bullet, and I
wonder if all life is
somehow loaded into
the chamber of a rifle,
the long tunnel of
darkness before us
our birthright and even
our destiny, all of it
as close to the hammer
as the width of these
lines, themselves an
inheritance of something
I am only now
beginning to understand,
like an insurrection
that no one saw,
not even those
in it, not even the man
with his hand on the trigger
or the people ready to rise.

Poem Begun on the Day of My Father's funeral and Completed on the first Day of the New Year

Light the last light and lift—
                                                                                                  and lift again in to that obscurity—

blue-skinned sky & what it cannot lead to—

                                                 the always immolated flesh of this world’s bone-shell—

what lasts? what goes like a trumpet blast

                                                                                                  through the feathered

                        ear of the angel? There

                                                                                                          & being & the evening air—

is in everything plummet—
                                                                                                                               & yet we go even some-
         times rise—have you wondered?

                                                                                                                               that dark wick—flame both
inward & below light the first fire—

                                                                                                                               what does not burn

                                                      might still die—& yet

                                                                                              what does not might grow—may graft—

                           like leaf & branch together—
                                                                                                                                              live this long lull
before the last:
                                                                let this
                                                                                                    let my words

leave their black axe next to the tree
                                                                                                                             & may
                         the grace
                                                of grace

feel through its fall

                                                                        the way—

Related Poems

Mouth Full of Grounds

The dots are on order     Cops patrol
the larger subway stations
on segways     Nobody
gets out of the way    Yesterday
I had a colonoscopy    which required fasting
for 40 hours and taking so much laxative
I shat water    Now my body is clean
I'm cleansed    and have the opportunity
to put only good things in    To start again
But I can't shake this shadow    I call it death
Love so strong I can hardly
function    Every fight my wife and I have had
or will    Why we can't
love each other like we used to
What will happen    to our children
To date, I'm responsible for the deaths
of at least 20 mice    My most triumphant moment
was when I got 6 at one time on a glue trap
then drowned them in the toilet    At work
we have a meeting in which there is only one rule:
No gerunds    My boss' boss
thinks I'm doing an amazing job  
My boss isn't so sure
Blood fills the place on my finger
where I just chewed off some skin    My fear has gone         to waste