Grasping at Goodbyes

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Grasping at Goodbyes Poems by David Baxley

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Poems by David Baxley

Transcript of Grasping at Goodbyes

  • Grasping at Goodbyes

    Poems by David Baxley

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    Beauty Catch Me


    Sorry for the Inconvenience

    Breaking and Falling

    Grasping at Goodbyes

    Remembering to Breath






    17.c. 2011A collection of poems written by David Baxley

    With illustrations and layout by Alexander BarnettMade For Typography 2

    Professor Jay Merriweather

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    Beauty Catch Me

    Beauty catch me in your palm like a snowflake falling from a sky so perfectly blue its repulsive and melt me into rivers that flowthrough the folds of your life-lines.

    Beauty fold your hands and pray me into a heart breaking since the night freedom set its alarm to 9/11.

    Dont cover your ears love. Listento the clinking metal of a wind chime fashioned from dog tags. Feel the rhythm of combat boots marching to the cadence of blind obedience. ListenI know a hundred-thousand things louder than a soldiers gun. I know the heaviness of an empty room. I know the heartbreak of his mother.

    Beauty speak me with your tongue for I have been screaming through the windpipe of your sons and daugh-ters whose open mouths you have filled with sand and silence.

    Beauty fill my chest with your breath like the air prayed from the living to the dead and breathe me holy.

    Dont cover your eyes life Watchthe night awaken with stars and learn to read by their light. Awaken from this dream that has become our American Nightmare. Watchas Kenny Lukes, soldier and father learns to hold his baby daughter with one hand. Watchas Tariq Hafeez rocks an empty cradle with brown hands caked by red mud.

    Beauty catch me in your palm like flecks of ash falling from a sky so perfectly torn itsbeautiful and smear me into snowfall that falls upon the branches of your life-lines.

    Beauty fold your hands and pray me into the heart of a life breaking since the moment we closed our eyes.

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    We gasp for the firmament of sleepas our lungs cloud with smokefrom embers dying into trails of cirrus,stratus, and cumulonimbus, signals,from the fires of yesterday, burning,to not be forgotten.

    Awaken the comets in your eyes,harbor happy thoughts as you shake star shinefrom the wings of your muse like pixie dustand push back against the ground with both feet.For only in the night do our shackled limbs remember flight.

    Let go of the doubts you cling to like a drowning manand place one brave step into uncertainty like a child learning to walk by falling.Do not fear the breaking only in the keepingof their rules.

    Youare the dreamer. Youare the painter.Trust in the Pablo Picasso and Salvador Daliof your unconscious, because it can paintwith all the colors that our brusheshesitate to apply to the canvasof our waking moments.

    Say flint.Say spark.Say this is me speaking from my hearth.Stop choking on the ashes from the bonfiresof dreams sacrificed to doubt.Allow your lungs to be free and open.Taste this life.Breathe this life.

    Close your eyesand awaken the Monarchs in your chest,the hummingbirds in your handsand feel. Feel from your constellationsall the way down to the dents in your shins.

    Allow your spine to openlike that of a book. A bookwith empty pages thirstyfor everything your pulse has yet to write.

    Love this lifein spite of your clenched fistsand cease to be witnessto this life. Plead guilty.Stand chargedand convicted.

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    Sorry for the Inconvenience

    Stopand remember the childrenAmerica.

    Or at least thats what the crossing guardssign is preaching.

    Held aloft from the pulpit of his gripthe octagonal sheet of red metaland reflective paint that calls for usto yield attention to remembrance.

    You can see him,on any given school zone cornerlike a slice of Americana pie,slowing the self-importantpace of traffic.

    Flip the radio dialfrom blasphemous to reverence,open your window,and crane your necklike you were passingthe scene of an accident.

    Stopand rub the sleepof the American Dreamfrom your eyesAmerica.

    Give your attention undividedto this guard of the crossing. Brush the clouds from the skies of apathetic eyes and lift them up from the worn rubber soles of tired work boots,swim across the cresting wavesof faded denim,

    while you do your bestto block out a vest draped overa paunch 234 years in the making.Built brick by brickupon the cracked foundation of the dreammortared with double quarter poundersand six-packs kicked backto the chorus of touchdowns,a vest bursting into caution yellowthat says rememberthe middleAmerica.

    Allow yourself to bend a kneeto the oafishness of his grin and the mesh of a cap advertisingmufflers and a split fingered wavethat looks Vulcan,reminding us toLive long and Prosper.

    Stopand remember the childrenAmerica.

    Their tiny outstretched handsuncurl like budding plants.Plants that have been stamped flatby the tires of an eighteen wheelerwith golden arches embossed on the trailer.

    Remember the landfillcalled a restaurant.Remember the railroad trackscalled a ribcage.Remember the sweatshop

    called the north pole.

    Somebody pray for the children.Somebody pray for what is lost.

    Stopand remember the guardwho says Sorry for the InconvenienceAmerica.

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    Breaking and Falling


    Day breaks through the windowand scattersrefractions across the floor.When I was six I broke a glass.While reaching for its placeon the top shelfit slipped from my gripand shattered.In waking we shatter our dreamslike that glass placed beyond our reachand the fragmentswe push beneath the rugsof waking eyes.


    The sun at noon dayhas seared our dreamstoo hot to live by.Suffering from sunstroke we have forgottenhow to listento the voice of ourselves as children.When I was a child I didnt dreamof flipping burgers.Filling the car with gas,shopping, and tuning our synapsesto the rhythm of nine to fiveare all ritual offeringsto the god that resides,beyond burning coronas,in the fiery heart of that starour eyes have learned to see by.


    The day is winding awayand I am searching for distractionfrom all that I have learnedto live with.The flicker of the televisionout shines the image of myselfas a boy reaching for moon rocks.The mashed and greasy burgerin my hand is amnesiafor fingers that have forgottentheir longing to plant themselvesin the earthand flower fossils.


    After the light of daylightrealizations of the reality of our situationshas fadedwe are captivatedlike staring into a sunsetso beautiful it hurts.The colors of fading lightmixing with the rising nightlook like the pack of crayonsmy son left on the dashof the car.


    Blue gives way to blackand my eyes close. I can seeall the things thatthe sun has blocked out.These stars that my heartis free to beat toare giant balls of distant lightand under themis a boy forgettingthat he wants to be an astronaut.In the night I fall but I hopethis time the dreamcatcher will catch mebefore I hit the day and break.

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    Grasping at Goodbyes

    My brother gave himself up for deadthe day after he set fire to his deployment papers,trying to catch freedom in the asheswhile on exhibit in a glass houseand no amount of stones could shatterthe panes and release him.

    My guts are a war zone in flameswith a pit big enoughto dissolve twenty-eight years of memory.My lungs are filling up and Im choking on the sandsof a desert eight-thousand miles distant.I cant catch the breath to say-goodbye.

    It feels like we have already laid you to restin a casket made of yellow ribbons.If you avoid hate-tipped bullets firedfrom angry guns, explosives billowing outwardinto clouds of cowardice, if you come homewith flesh and sinew intactwill you remain the same?As you push in firing solutionsand turn fathers, mothers, sisters, and little brothersinto shadowswill you remain? Becausenot all casualties come home in body bags.

    You choke-chained depressionwith the shackles of Uncle Samand now that he has come asking for the priceyou cant open yourself.Im still digging through a drawerof unwanted things in a house long abandoned,haunted by your ghost and the only keyis formed from the bones of our family.

    Dont go. Im still tryingto scrape away the rust. We all havesince the moment of our birth.In this storm that is lifewe are looking for confirmation in lightning.Our hearts still beat c-sharpas we tune our spinal cordsto the key of redemption.

    Sacrifice is something someone comfortably anonymous should make. This cant happento youto us.Im still formulating my argument againsta god Im not sure can hearas you go off to fight for my rightto fill my car with Muhammads pulse.Ill sell it and walk or get a bikeif it will keep you as arealive, unchanged, my brother.

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    Remembering to Breath

    I opened a box of my favorite post cards,the one I keep inside my chest,and there you were,lodged between the summer camp of 94and a boy afraid of the water.

    There are things I know by heart,like family outings to the beach,the wind waltzing through your hairand you just smilingbecause you still rememberhow to breathe,

    and there are things I dont.Why are loved ones taken?Why does life have to cost so much?

    I still wander along the forgetful shoresof my memory pressing shells to my ears.Hoping, that someday the roar bouncing back from the inside will singin the key of your voice box.

    Most days I wonder if you werereal or imagined and that if I forgetyou will transubstantiate like vaporsteaming up from cold ground glazed with frost on a morning kissed by the sun.

    And I know my shine cant holda candle to my rustbut Ill do my best to keepthe flame of your vigil lit,burning bright as the days you were happy to see me.

    Those days when you were the princessand I was your humble steed.I would prance for hours across the floorsof your now broken homeon my uncle hands and knees until they bled.

    The blood flowing like your fathers tears.My pulse finger painting forget-me-notsin your image.

    Recalling your image these daysis like watching God rend branches from our family tree.because God has always been a boy playing with fire.Heaven has always been a pyrefueled by the kindling of suffering and fanned by the breath of a thousand unanswered prayers.

    If prayers were enough to save usId collect them all and stitch them into a white flag and wave it in surrenderand ask God the tough questions he has been avoiding.Why did he abandon us like life abandoned my brothers daughter andwhy did that man decide to drive for home and drive her from us on that hourthat was anything but happy?

    Now I hold my children extra tighthoping that with each embraceI can squeeze more life into them.All the while a man breathes forget-me-notslike paper planes taking flightsof freedom through the bars of his cell.

    He drank to forget and nowit hurts to remember.I wanna catch those planessoaring on the winds of regretand send them back inscribedwith poems that speak of forgiveness.That Im sorry for carryingthis noose of hate for so long.

    Because I have been screaming for helpthrough the windpipe of a man who cannot speak.

    Because I have been trying to keep you afloatas you swim for the familiar shores of homecarried on the current of my blood stream.

    And I have been running into the armsof someone who fades and find only the wallsthat now exist between us when I get there.

    Maybe one day shell show upin starfish of lightand tell me why things are

    the way they are.

    But until then I will mail this postcardof you and myself to myselfto remind myself to breathebecause we all have different reasons for forgetting.

    Every breath we take is sacred.Every second of this life is scriptureand these holes our hearts have learnedto beat with are like the valves in an instrumentand these wounds are where the places where the music comes through.

    Ill keep wandering these shoresplacing one foot in front of the otherand to do my best to rememberto take a breath.

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