F. DANIEL RZICZNEK
Preamble to an Undeliverable Sermon
Rain during prayer—the phrase
stays, illuminated, alongside me, midair
as I sleep, my sleep
bursting with the clatter of rain hitting the roof,
spears and arrows hitting the decks of ships,
shelves breaking with the weight of books.
To hold them here, in my eyes forever: the lopsided V of Canada geese crossing southward between the stars and my city.
I hold onto them.
Their wings pound the air but make no progress—a pebble in my hand from the ground they last touched before wandering toward heaven, the streetlights freezing to blue.
The anger, though days old and covered
in shirts, hair, and skin, dies now into
that room beyond the door of god-ness,
that space outside reckoning and above
the din of once-friends feuding, the feud
itself a veil over spy-like, acted signals.
Wait 'til I get my hooks into you…
The brain resorts to its marshes and briars.
The anger has died, but goes as a ghost
combing the scrollwork of fields, the angles
of road, crop, and river, the tripled
death of cattle, farm, and farmer
in this place the anger-ghost whimpers
through, hovers over, but can never exit.
The long, narrow road, caked with salt, cuts my feet. The rooms of that house I am going toward are lit by fires, edged by night, drawn from spaces between our bones. The path is terrible. Someone passes, seen only for an instant. At that greeting in the dark, all futures stir.
When they come to you, when they tell you
you're definitely going to die, what
will you be wearing, what will the sky be doing?
Will the footpaths untangle themselves and rise,
twisted as sheets beside the river?
Will the honest trees (their speed a lapse
into tenderness) approach you or move distant?
Will you disappear, like the others,
under the speechlessness of the world?
When they come to you, when they speak
of who to see and where, will you drown
them out, will you walk the few flights
down to put a hand to the solid dirt
there between a very young tree
and the city's smoke-plumed, graying heart?
The wave that takes you in its breast,
the sound of that wave (a million songbirds
sweeping inward), will it leave any space?
Will it surround you and drink you down
in a violent gulp, leaving your shell
for the wayfarers and their hounds to ponder?
Will such an end come so quickly—
light as sleep, heavy as the air in summer?
I can leave for the mountains, leave all pages and pens, all thoughts and the animalistic, smoky dreams that follow my thoughts, but I will never be alone. My temper will trail me (sunglow ghost), my hatred for summer, my loathing for spring: all arranged, a line from star to the eye's center. I am never alone. I am a movement from witness to silence, from frost to moss, the crows bursting cloudward at my sound, the rain itself disappearing into afterthought and foreshadowing of rain—a calm day—but I am never alone.
The weird light curling around the edges
of everything—I have a word
for it: angeldusk
The ice basks on the backs
of the oak's massive arms as if
it had slithered there to sleep.
The grasses keep a few green watchers
sentient above the snow.
I have but them for now to kneel to.
I can live after this. You can go on digging your graves before the bodies have even fallen. You can go on selling yourself to yourself. I will have to go on doing the same—digging my graves, selling myself to myself, but after this I tell you I can go. I can live as a king in a kingdom of dust. I can wander or linger, I can map the knobs and scars of endless trees. You can end the trees. I can end the trees. We can take it all down, back to a dustless slate, but even then the wind will find our haunts. Even then, something will be bearing these mistakes of ours beyond the aftermath of infinity.
Someone will be walking in the cool of the evening.
F. Daniel Rzicznek is the author of two poetry collections, Divination Machine (Free Verse Editions/Parlor Press, 2009) and Neck of the World (Utah State University Press, 2007), as well as four chapbooks, most recently Live Feeds (Epiphany Editions, 2015). His poems have recently appeared or are forthcoming in The Kenyon Review, Massachusetts Review, Drunken Boat, TYPO, and Forklift, Ohio. Also coeditor of The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Prose Poetry: Contemporary Poets in Discussion and Practice (Rose Metal Press, 2010), Rzicznek teaches writing at Bowling Green State University.