I walk on sidewalks strewn with
homeless faces taut, tossed
and mangled for their tears;
I give them grief by morning
greetings, low-kneeling grins,
coffee held as high
as human love; bounding from the
moments not my own; I am
the witness and the way but
never cents worth of me will
fell God’s judgments here.
For they are faggots built, pyres
of penury that burn and churn
with gnashing teeth; on I’ll go
and not a moment soon enough
to hear the grinding bone silence,
the wild wind sweeping it away.
but what? i had passed them
days ago, and miles, and they
are still gnawing at their teeth,
and the fires pull sweat from
beneath my skin, and the crackle
calls, and all manner of the bonfire
still is ’round about me, but I
have passed it miles on and years!
it is so near to me, so searing:
they are sure as night within me;
my breath inhales the fevered
smoke, the restless tongues of fire!
is it my imagination, racked with fear?
do i have some unplayed penance here?
am i guilty as the homeless wretch that
wastes his days begging for his crimes?
i know, within my bounded heart, if I were
guilty of the self-same evils, i would walk
and stalk in sybarite streets unowned;
but i am well.
and yet i burn against the passioned mercy
of my God, my God! my nature’s God, my
right and just and honorable God!
Every thing as dignified as earned a name
by heaven’s watch; the God who made and
unmade being just the same, and every wretch
destroyed but me—
for I am justice, right, and well in
all the eyes beholden to the Lord, my God, my God.
however certain am I? i would lay down my life
for my righteousness; for i am saved from
the perils of the end’s deep fires; never to undo
what God has made, and God has named; and
God has given being.
in being, simply, i am saved.
why, then, am i swallowing the even flames,
the plumes impartial, and sooner than
the homeless, will i die.