Vox Populi

A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature

Michael Simms: Six poems

.

My brother who is dying of cancer

 

My brother who is dying of cancer

Tells me the time has come

To forgive our father because

It’s not about us, it was never about us

Only about the children entrusted to us

To praise, to nurture, to protect.

He says he learned this lesson

From our father who failed

At the task so thoroughly.

 

A few weeks before my sister died

 

A few weeks before my sister died

She called me, and we had a long talk,

Joking and ribbing the way we used to do

Before our estrangement. My anger

And her pride, or perhaps her anger

And my pride, had done us in,

And it was so wonderful to hear

The old Beth. I didn’t know at the time

That after years of drugs and drink

And therapy, she had given up,

And her call to me was her way

Of saying goodbye. Our last words

To each other were I love you.

A final act of kindness to me

Before she blew her brains out

In a bathroom in Llano, Texas.

 

I was so sick of myself

 

I was so sick of myself

Tired of everything tainted with myself.

When I looked at a flower I saw

Only myself looking at a flower.

Sky, trees, birds, streams,

Children, houses, streets, cars,

Work, play… I knew it all

Because it was all myself.

 

In the airport, I saw crowds, everyone traveling

Home to me, talking on their phones as they walked,

And I heard them speaking of my own self-absorption.

When I listened to the news, it was news of me, of how I

Am changed by the comings and goings of laws and officials.

The only war was the war within me.

The only hunger was the gnawing for something more.

The only death that mattered was my own.

I saw my own torn body among the war-flung dead.

I was God and the Creation.

When I kissed the woman who loved me, I was kissing myself.

It was all me, all the time.

 

And then… and then… my shell

grown too heavy with nothing to support it,

I collapsed into myself like a dying star,

I became a black hole that nothing escaped from.

I sat and stared, sat and stared,

Not eating, only a sip of water now and then,

Barely breathing, as all the images of my life flowed through my mind,

Beside the window I felt, rather than saw,

The light come and go, come and go,

As afternoon faded to evening, night to day.

In the dying half-light of my 63rdyear, I saw

My father’s fists, my mother’s exhaustion, my grandmother

Whipping my naked little brother,

his screams from the next room.

I saw me being raped in a bathroom

by an older boy when I was eight,

Drinking, drugs, anger, desolation

Blew through me and came to rest

And I woke from my trance, knowing

I had crossed into another world.

 

In the hour before sunrise, I reached across the bed

And touched the arm of the woman I’ve lain beside

Ten thousand nights, and she was she and I was I

And I could love her without thinking of myself.

We took Josie for a walk in the streets of our neighborhood.

Late April and pear trees were dropping their white petals,

And Josie had to stop to sniff each small thing,

Dog turd, dropped ice cream cone, garbage can,

And Eva kept the leash loose and easy and let the dog lead us

Into the alley where the dogs, her friends,

Were barking and a small girl came over to us

To pet our puppy, and life was good, and there were no decisions to make

Or things to think about, life was all about the snow

Of flowers and the yip of a puppy and a child’s small hand stroking fur.

 

When I was a child

 

When I was a child

Our mothers would release us at sunrise

With the instruction, be back at sunset.

Now children are supervised all the time.

Is the world so much more dangerous now?

Or do we simply not trust the world

To be kind to our children anymore?

 

Welcome happy morning

 

Comfort from the summer garden and the winter roof

In the garden the weathervane shifts above

The greenhouse our son built in the backyard

In the winter the Monongahela flows beneath the ice

Until finally we ask God for nothing but death

Won’t you sing to me once more

All along the road

Weave me a wreath of white roses

The radiant days with you, the tender nights

 

Oh

 

Oh, to have a clean conscience and sleep

The sleep of dogs and small children.

The most complicated skill is to be simple.


 

Copyright 2018 Michael Simms

27 comments on “Michael Simms: Six poems

  1. jenneandrews
    October 30, 2018

    There is a beautiful, compelling tenderness in your work, Mike. How desperately needed right now. My thoughts and prayers are with you and Eva and I hope that love carries you through. I find myself in a cradle, endlessly rocking back and forth between rage and love and the one true comfort: we are not in the cradle alone, but with others along the tungsten horizon of life and death. There is too much sadness in the world, or perhaps not enough, in the right time and place. Love for you, to you. Jenne’

    Liked by 1 person

  2. robert okaji
    October 19, 2018

    Thank you for these poems, Michael. Truly. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Patricia A. Nugent
    October 14, 2018

    So much to think about, to grieve, to celebrate. It’s all here. It’s more important now than ever that we speak our truth. For who are we if not authentic to ourselves and each other.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Andrea Hollander
    October 14, 2018

    When I entered these poems, I entered a world of fragility and truth—such an important combination. Thank you so much for writing and sharing your work.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. ruth clark
    October 14, 2018

    I’m glad you were able to tell it all, Mike, the horror it was. ruth

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Tricia Knoll
    October 14, 2018

    Thank you for sharing these.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Life Turnings
    October 14, 2018

    Thank you for these poems, Michael. They are spoken out of great depths and into great depths.

    Charles

    Charles Davidson Asheville, North Carolina charlesnd5@icloud.com (828) 357-5405 http://www.charlesndavidson.com

    >

    Liked by 1 person

  8. John Tieman
    October 14, 2018

    The craft and the bravery of these poems — I admire the craft, but I am astounded by the bravery.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Daniel Burston
    October 14, 2018

    Oh my! Losing a brother and a sister – whether through estrangement, or to addiction/ illness – is very hard, Michael. I admire theraw honesty of these and many other poems of yours immensely.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Michael Simms
      October 14, 2018

      Thanks, Dan. Your comments (and your friendship) are important to me.

      Like

  10. brenda butka
    October 14, 2018

    Oh, my. Thank you, and may I extend a hand in sympathy.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. michaelgregoryaz
    October 14, 2018

    Powerful, Michael. Thank you.

    Michael Gregory http://www.michaelgregory.org http://www.postsovietdepression.com

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Naomi Shihab Nye
    October 14, 2018

    Michael, these are such incredibly powerful poems! Bravo for your clarity, and brave honest voice. And thank you for Vox Populi from your grateful readers…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Michael Simms
      October 14, 2018

      Thank you so much, Naomi. You have been a powerful influence on me through the years… both your poetry and your kindness. Brava to you!

      Like

      • Joanne Matone samraney
        October 14, 2018

        Powerful poems Michael. Without raw emotion, poetry is just words to me. I felt these experiences with you. Bravo!
        Thanks for sharing.

        Liked by 1 person

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