“After the Revolution for Jesus a Secular Man Prepares
His Final Remarks”
by Miller Williams
What the blind lost when radio
gave way to TV,
what the deaf lost when movies
stopped spelling out words and spoke,
was a way back in. Always, this desire
to be inside again, when the doors are closed.
The thought of being disconnected
from history or place can empty the heart;
we are most afraid,
whatever else we fear,
of feeling the memory go, and of exile.
And death, which is both at once.
Still, as our lives
are the inhalations and exhalations of gods
we ought not fear those things we know will come
and ought not hope for what we know will not.
The dogs that waited for the soldiers to come home
from Philippi, New Guinea, Pennsylvania,
are all dead now whether or not the men
came back to call them.
There is no constancy but a falling away
with only love as a temporary stay
and not much assurance of that.
The desert religions are founded on sandy ways
to set ourselves free from that endless tumbling downward.
Thus we endow ourselves with gods of purpose,
the purposes of gods, and do their battles.
We are sent to war for money, but we go for God.
Prison is no place for living
but for reliving lives.
I remember a quarrel of students
proving, reproving the world;
a woman taking love
she didn’t want, but needed
like a drowning swimmer
thrown a strand of barbed wire
by a kind stranger standing on the shore.
Imperfect love in that imperfect world
seemed elegant and right.
Now the air that shaped itself to our bodies
will take the forms of others.
They will laugh with this air and pass it through their bodies
but days like ours
they will not come again to this poor planet.
I am reinventing our days together.
A man should be careful with words
at a time like this,
but lies have some attraction over the truth;
there is something in deceitful words
that sounds good to the ear.
The first layer of paint conceals the actor;
the second conceals the paint.
By which sly truth we have come to where we are.
I can hear brief choirs of rifles.
Inside my head
naked women wander toward my bed.
How gently they lie there, loving themselves to sleep.
What do we know that matters that Aeschylus did not know?
I do believe in God, the Mother and Father,
Maker of possibility, distance, and dust,
who may never come to judge or quicken the dead
but does abide. We live out our lives
inside the body of God,
a heretic and breathing universe
that feeds on the falling of sparrows
and the crumbling of nations,
the rusting away of metal
and the rotting of wood.
I will be eaten by God.
There is nothing to fear.
To die, the singers believe, is to go home.
Where should I go, going home? Lord, I am here.
(copyright Miller Williams)