I’m Nobody! Who are you?

I’m Nobody! Who are you? (#260)
by Emily Dickinson

I’m Nobody! Who are you?
Are you – Nobody – too?
Then there’s a pair of us!
Don’t tell! they’d advertise – you know!

How dreary – to be – Somebody!
How public – like a Frog –
To tell one’s name – the livelong June –
To an admiring Bog!

~Emily Dickinson

 

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“East Taylor Street” by Day Williams

EAST TAYLOR STREET

“We must have richness of soul.”
To Margaret Muth

“A teacher affects eternity.”

I. JUDGMENT

Each sunrise brings me closer to my grave,
A chariot will bear me close to God,
And God will shed His grace and light,
White light, everlasting light.

“My God, my God, why did I forsake you?”
I’ll say at the Judgment Seat.
Naked
cold
alone
before the Lord
who sits enthroned between the cherubim,
I’ll kneel and cry,
the fragments I stored against my ruin
a puff of smoke, a stench,

Yet, trailing aromas of roses,
the cherubim will fly near to comfort me,
four angels round my head
Who flutter and coo like human doves
And cover me with a coat of many colors,

And I’ll wonder, “Why do they care for me?
I did not expect them to sing to me,
Sweet voices, I thank them, most sweet voices.”
I am no good, fallen, a wilted rose,
expelled from Paradise Garden,
With only a carpenter’s blood to redeem me.
Ashes, ashes, all fall down.

Tomorrow creeps in petty pace
with alarm clock, headline news,
and weather report followed
by elevators, escalators, debaters,
by titillaters and “See you laters.”

Traffic jams and diaper rash,
onion soup and diner hash
crush high school dreams
Like a walnut in a vise,
And parents’ dreams shatter
amid arthritis and Alzheimer’s,
In phone bills, tax returns, and business schemes.

Where is it now, the glory and the dream?

I will not follow the rich man
who stores his grain and goods in barns
for himself alone,
or the prophet of floods and storms,
who heaps despair upon despair,
cold mashed potatoes on a broken plate,
enough theology to make us hate.

Let the merchants of the earth
walk through midnight streets
outside the bankers’ walls
and the Halls of Congress,
as they weep and mourn for
their cargoes of gold, silver,
ivory, apes, and peacocks,
cargoes of cinnamon and spice,
of incense, myrrh and frankincense,
of wine and olive oil, cattle and sheep,
and bodies and souls of men.

I’d rather lift the fire and the rose
against the gathering storm.

II. THE GREAT ARTIST

They laid a friend to rest.
Professor said, “He was the best,
But could not conquer his demons,”
demons down under the sea
that downward dragged him, deep down
to mock the artist’s quest.

A lonely hunter,
he did not go gentle into his good night.

His arms pounded the hospital bed
as he shouted, “Them, them, them!”
and urinated on the white sheets.

His beer and Scotch nurtured
the delirium of the brave,
and every drink lashed him with more fearful visions,
Fiends that fell from heaven above
to pay his wages and prick his nerves.

While he threatened to burn
His life’s work–
Thirty thousand prints
of a world war, a nurse midwife,
a Spanish village,
a medical missionary,
a fishing village in Japan
poisoned by mercury in the waters,
and a walk to paradise garden–
the silver gelatin prints remain,
Heat emanating from a frying soul.
He shunned the Love that would have made him whole.

Lust ingratiates himself in bars and offices,
Pride adorns herself for the shopping mall,
Greed clutches the dollar bills and the charge cards,
Envy covets the wife of a mayor,
Anger batters and bruises the teenager,
Sloth rolls over on the soiled bed,
And Gluttony has gulped the crumbs of cake and pie.
Young lovers kiss in bliss, and claim they’ll never die.
III. THE ROSE GROWS

In the middle of my strife
I survived the Bronx, a lake of fire,
Left the wood-rose on its stalk,
And rented a place on East Taylor Street
near a casino where I carried, over my loins,
a belt of change, and walked
beside the slot machines
that whirred and buzzed and gobbled coins.

When called by God to write and rule world-wide,
My genius near to madness was allied
And Jesus’ blood had washed away my pride.

I wrote to join Earth,
with her thousand voices,
in praising God.

Try as I might,
I could not best the words,
Though I wrestled sleepless nights,
For, like a jackrabbit scared in the brush,
Sentences hopped and scooted away
From the meanings my heart would convey;

Imagination–
Adam’s dream,
toads in gardens with forbidden fruit–
endured;
In Spirit’s steps, in stroke and counterstroke,
The rose unfolded over flames and smoke.

The fire
throws shadows
on walls of caves
of ice
where the killer
rubs
the spot
on her hand,
as the jet
taxis
down the runway,
the whiskeyed pilot
half-focuses
on the dials,
listens

to the generations’
howl and jazz, rock and rap.

Holy man strains to hear the truth in love
from a slow train that never fails,
that rejoices in the right.
Alive by faith, and not by sight,
The rose has grown near stalactites.
IV. THE BAILIFF

The bailiff’s known both love and hate,
And love’s in flames beside his gate.
Right with God and man (he tells his friends),
His house in order, his last will
and testament signed and locked away,

Dodging his emptiness, no sins to confess,
With moderate virtue and moderate vice,
He carries cargo to the South,
And the murals on the hull of his craft
Make children smile and strike angelic poses.
Steering clear of banks, stones and wild waves,
He cultivates his cargo of red roses,
Guiding the drunken boats that trade in slaves.
He hears no cries for help, sees none to save.
V. THE ROSE BLOSSOMS

I am a cactus in the desert
Whose roots dig deep into the earth
For water, a pilgrim
Seeking the face of God.
Now that I drink from the source,
My buds will open.

Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
While in the garden, pray,
Pray for the teacher paralyzed in bed,
Pray for the unborn girl
knit together in her mother’s womb,
Pray for the homeless mother
who lingers by the stove
at the Salvation Army shelter,
Pray for cures to diseases,
Pray for God-breathed words
that uplift the soul and spirit,
Pray that
it’s not too late to seek a newer world.

Holy servants walk in light, as He is light,
And dare to dream of new roses,
To gather the bulbs from the hills,
And plant them in the earth.
You are ignorant, as I am ignorant,
And I will not ignore you
Though you and I have failed to speak our loves.
What matters most is saving many lives.

What you love well remains, the rest is dross:
Time meets eternity upon the cross.
With work and vision we can forge a ring,
And set our hope on grace: of this I sing.