By James Davis May
You swore never to be
a ritual mourner.
— Czeslaw Milosz
My language and friends are behind me now.
A mile down Grodzka, I bought water and cheap bread,
then on my way to your church’s baroque spires
I passed the historical marker next to the bakery.
And here, in front of you, these red candles
have melted to rings, a day’s worth of flowers
pile up on your granite with five unread notes.
The odd, underwhelming feeling of tombs.
Is it from the disappointment of not knowing
what to do? I wait and leave,
head back what feels like too soon
into the painful sun where three teenagers
smoke at the ankles of some patinated saint
and a jackhammer pummels the sidewalk
into the wrong scene. The want for something
more than this common ugliness. So I look back,
but feel instead my palms, blasted by the pain
of what almost happened, go flat on the car’s hood.
I don’t know to watch where I’m going.
James Davis May is the author of the poetry collection Unquiet Things. He lives in Macon, Georgia.
Originally Published in NOR 8