Acts of God
Let the Egyptians boil in the foam of their roiling
Red Soup, choke on goat bones, meet the wrath
— though, think about it: They were just grunts,
doing the Man’s business. Sometimes, the Hebrews
were the mercenaries. This time, the Egyptians
were Chaldeans and Persians and, for all I know,
Moses walks into McDonald’s with Aaron and stutters
his order for a large f-f-f-fries. Aaron rolls his eyes.
“Take a breath, little brother, no rush. Sigh a moment
of peace. God knows, you seared your hands wrestling
the bush, and your face, the ripples of your scars are
hard to look at.”
Miriam, the youngest, wanted to take that raw face
in her hands and fold it to her breasts as if to suckle
the sad, stunned boy inside.
God claims full measure.
during five dances by the Chicago Repertory Ballet
Mother sins. Women save.
elegant clumsy thighs,
thick steel, smooth strength.
Mother thunder. Women meadow.
Mother stone. Women touch.
shoulder, shoulder, shoulder,
Mother shut. Women shout.
long leg, long arm,
Mother dark. Women shine.
and thanks be to God.
Mother fear. Women hope.
Stone and flesh
Eternal, I stand dark before
boulder on boulder on
boulder on boulder, floor
to cave ceiling, voiceless
idol, her face the top, with
toddler brother’s hand in
mine —- our dread, our
yearning, our electricity too
frail to puncture her stone
skin and guts and mind and
heart, her vengeful glare
lighted by all the lights of the
Cosmos, blinding, one stealing
around to the next cave and
the same idol, and my brother
staying behind to bash his
skull all the days of his life
against the stern inert flesh.
Words and phrases from William Styron’s book about depression, highlighted in yellow by my brother several years before his suicide — a found poem*
wasn’t cheered by the festive occasion dank joylessness habitual pretense failure of alleviation laid low gloom crowding in excruciating near-paralysis maintain rosy view need day over shadows encroaching anxiety and dread demanding struggle obliterated any enjoyable response
close to actual pain drowning suffocation positive and active anguish immobilized trance of supreme discomfort helpless stupor full-time exhaustion almost measurably worse brownout ferocious inwardness immense distraction
guilt and self-condemnation absence of hope leaden and poisonous mood pattern of distress intensity and relief incomplete letup immediate upheaval nearly helpless a bullet through his brain
melancholia howling tempest in the brain less zestful waiting to swoop down indifferent suffocating gloom aching solitude violent thoughts near paralysis sapped drained without savor absence of dreams death a daily presence think ceaselessly of oblivion
stretched on such a torture rack dependence a world soon obliterated full of anguish suffering crucifixion
an end to myself either course was torture inner convulsion despair beyond despair an irreversible decision oncoming disaster extinction inadequate apologies go out in silence numbly unresponsive some last gleam of sanity
only duty try to get well
the abyss mysterious in its coming still shaky
struck again grip of depression at its ghastliest unrealistic hopelessness genetic roots
a dark wood horror of depression only remedy behold the stars
*Words and phrases highlighted in a paperback edition of Styron’s Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness (Vintage). Each stanza is from a different chapter in the book.
Patrick T. Reardon