When Sympathy Can Only Get You So Far

John Grey

In bed, beneath the patched rainbow of my Bolivian blanket,
the moon dark-domed, stars purring in the black,
close up to a woman’s thighs where forever is vigorously engaged.
It is midnight, six hours before some long awaited execution in a faraway Texas prison –
orange dawn-light greets an old conversation – kill the beast and his victims go free.

The newspapers say what he misses most is dropping coins into a jukebox.
Illegal, say the letter writers. Ought to shove the Statue of Liberty up his sphincter.
The savage pen, the whitewashed room, heads buzzing like flies —
with a few choice words scribbling their way to their own goodness.
Nothing like death news to ingratiate itself with the living.
Folks outside jail wave their all-night placards for the few.
The juiced guy screams for the rest of us.

Still night, hear my watch tick, as foggy as any dream,
a lone motorcycle rumbles by – helmetless I hear —
maybe in a deal with his own execution —
alone, despite the company – in the same self that always consumes me –
do I want to see the bastard fried — or am I kind enough to kiss the red rips of a killer.
Because I can lie my head on a pillow and my heart beats due west of my navel,
and my mind is cop and social worker, priest and hangman, lover and hater –
I look upon my conflicted thoughts with awe.

All doze off eventually, lock into the incense of the breath, the bones,
three or four good shots at the wishing well, happy, body a sleeping smile,
the room a mantra, curtains an orchestra, specters subsume into spirit –
then morning, sunlight not open wound, beginning because ends have nothing to offer –
if someone killed the moon then that’s okay with me -1 was merely flattering my soul –
I never know if that execution went as planned.

No more disputes -1 must learn to be kind to myself.
Killer on the block? No, my sympathies find other arcs.
I log on to a newspaper. The world lives up to its violent name.
Can’t reach out to an earthquake or a fire or a south-side drive-by shooting.
And I’m all the better for it.

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