The Needs of the Many

Brendan Constantine

On the days when we wept—
and they were many—we did it
over the sound of a television
or radio, or the many engines
of the sky. It was rarely so quiet
we could hear just our sadness,
the smallness of it
that is merely the sound of wind
and water between the many pages
of the lungs. Many afternoons
we left the house still crying
and drove to a café or the movies,
or back to the hospital where we sat
dumb under the many eyes
of Paul Klee. There were many
umbrellas, days when it refused
to rain, cups of tea ignored. We
washed them all in the sink,
dry eyed. It’s been a while,
we’re cried out. We collect pauses
and have taken to reading actual
books again. We go through them
like yellow lights, like tunnels
or reunions, we forget which;
the older you are the more similes,
the more pangs per hour. Indeed,
this is how we break one hour into
many, how healing wounds time
in return. And though we know
there will always be crying to do,
just as there’s always that song,
always a leaf somewhere in the car,
this may be the only sweetness left,
to have a few griefs we cherish
against the others, which are many.

More by Brendan Constantine

This Page Ripped Out and Rolled into a Ball

A rose by any other name   could be Miguel   or Tiffany   Could be
David or Vashti   Why not Aya   which means beautiful flower   but
also verse and miracle   and a bird   that flies away quickly   You see
where this is going   That is   you could look at a rose   and call it
You See Where This Is Going   or I Knew This Would Happen   or even
Why Wasn’t I Told   I'm told of a man   who does portraits for money
on the beach   He paints them with one arm   the other he left behind
in a war   and so he tucks a rose into his cuff   always yellow   and people
stare at it   pinned to his shoulder   while he works   Call the rose
Panos   because I think that's his name   or call it   A Chair By The Sea
Point from the window   to the garden   and say   Look   a bed
of Painter’s Hands   And this is a good place   to remember the rose
already has many names   because   language is old and can't agree
with itself   In Albania you say Trëndafil   In Somalia say Kacay
In American poetry   it's the flower you must never name   And now
you see where this is going   out the window   across water
to a rose shaped island   that can't exist but   you’re counting on
to be there   unmapped   unmentioned till now   The green place
you imagine hiding   when the world finds out   you're not
who you've said

Related Poems

The Sadness of Clothes

When someone dies, the clothes are so sad. They have outlived
their usefulness and cannot get warm and full.
You talk to the clothes and explain that he is not coming back

as when he showed up immaculately dressed in slacks and plaid
     jacket
and had that beautiful smile on and you’d talk.
You’d go to get something and come back and he’d be gone.

You explain death to the clothes like that dream.
You tell them how much you miss the spouse
and how much you miss the pet with its little winter sweater.

You tell the worn raincoat that if you talk about it,
you will finally let grief out. The ancients etched the words
for battle and victory onto their shields and then they went out

and fought to the last breath. Words have that kind of power
you remind the clothes that remain in the drawer, arms
     stubbornly
folded across the chest, or slung across the backs of chairs,

or hanging inside the dark closet. Do with us what you will,
they faintly sigh, as you close the door on them.
He is gone and no one can tell us where.