THE CYNIC


There are no innocent people. 
I have seen the future and it is unending 
Neon ribbons of animus. 

Jade stars litter the sky like rosary beads 
Against black velvet, and absence defines 
The boundaries of being. There, 

Beneath exhaling dogwoods and magnolias 
Tree frogs croak their complicity, 
Illuminating the emptiness with sound. 

Here, beside me, another woman stands 
Gleaning shadowy meanings from the distant tarn; 
The wake washes the bank, stroking it like a thigh. 

Night descends. The mapless geography is revealed, 
Branched promontories of terra infirma expose 
The vacuum in which a life may be lived. 

This malcontent offers me what she has 
Been taught-a masked simper designed to obscure 
From me what I long ago recognized in myself. 

The web of her voice spirals away and extends 
To enclose nothingness; she mutters that she is the hushed 
Reminder at Sunday dinner not to tell the faggot joke. 

And this feeling so long forgotten makes me gasp for air 
To keep from crying. I know the rueful smile I manage is more pathetic
Than teeth-like cowries shells strung against the damp skin of her throat. 

Separated from the flock, somewhere a black starling screams. I want her 
To know that I, too, like a child have suffered atrocities in silence, 
Then swallowed hard as I bore witness to my own attrition 

Into the rank and file. I am the cynic unable to love 
What has been lost. My eyes no longer flash 
Unwilling to capture images my soul no longer records. 

These superimposed images of the past, a history 
Of superfluous lovers who exhumed while destroying 
A vault of slow-burning memories which could not be relived. 

But I do remember the awe and wonder 
Of cupping in hand my first lover's breast and whispering 
Her name over and over. Again and again, the starling screams. 

The bemused fronds bow their heads for a closer listen 
Unable to believe that they hear amid the soundless cries 
The marbled square of set shoulders becoming round. 

On the horizon, a quay just visible to the eye. Drawing near, 
A pirogue splits the dark waters. The calyx that is my throat 
Bears down, suppressing. I have seen the future, and it is. 

I tell this woman that I do not know, but I have heard 
That somewhere pineapples are a symbol of hospitality, 
So surely her life must be the symbol for something.