For the sake of a single precious life
witness a hundred wars
welcome home a thousand soldiers from battle
as they return scarred, disfigured, missing limbs
poisoned, addicted, half-insane from atrocities
scorched into memory
committed or condoned
the things men do
to save a life or destroy another.

For the sake of one precious life
buy a few beers for the homeless veterans
playing chess on Market Street
listen to their commentaries
the twice-earned thrice-learned
street wisdom, their politics and songs
etiquettes, epitaphs, whispered elegies
while black's bishop planchettos white rook
trapped by a single resolute pawn
beneath a pall of San Francisco clouds
these men sacrificing their queen...
It's endgame, my friend, endgame...

For the sake of a all life
adopt a three-legged dog from the pound
serve Thanksgiving dinner at a shelter
carry a dead infant on your shoulders
see your parents into their graves
stand by their sweat-drenched beds
hear their screams for morphine, a sister long gone...
let it's ache hemorrhage inside you
peer into the cataract glazed eyes
of those who came before you
those who wiped your tears
bandaged your knees
held you on their laps
protected you from death
when the last expiration sloughs
across the lips that once kissed your brow
and the elders part the bardo gates
the portal to the unknown
mystery that only the true mystics
and seers have scratched its enigmatic facade opens
no pearly gates, no transcendent white light
just the gaping yaw of nonexistence
that swallows all and is no more...

For the sake of human lives
write poems—not love poems—
history has heard enough youthful scribbles
and histrionic cries for a lover whom they were not
even remotely ready for
fill the ghetto halls with the songs of those yet to be born
the generations who inherit our legacy
our spoils and our spoiled
our neurotic foraging for our desires to be quelled
open the apocryphal hymnal and pen your detuned
symphony, the bitter recapitulation:
a backwards tape machine
that slides the vicissitudes
between pineal and pituitary
every wart every fart
every peccadillo
and as the last bits of memory
the crumbs of consciousness
are dissolved into oblivion
what final impressions
would you leave?
what is the culmination
of the moment that precedes
the last breath
the last spiral
last thought
last love
yes, listen...

Listen—with the attention that only the living
can barely muster. Listen—
with the focus of ten thousand monks
Listen—to the delicate crackle as the gasoline-soaked
epidermis blisters and blackens
the tiny percussion
of the self-immolated that thunders elsewhere
inevitably breaking a silence
much like the fabled forest
before the tree falls
listen to the dwindling echo
of your unstrung cochlea
falling in upon itself
and then the deafening silence...

Silence includes all noise
every siren and songbird
the clanging of prison doors
the familiar chatter of the crazies who inhabit the night
the whistle and duduk of the midnight minstrel
who sleeps in the alley and eats your trash
excommunicated blues of those we pushed away
or ate their hearts like the zombies we truly ache to be.

Because to think is already too much
to have to herd one's unpleasant thoughts
much less torrents of emotion so freakily splattered
across the akashic record for everyone and God
to witness like some tragicomedy we've never seen before
they say there's only eleven stories of humankind
not even a dozen dime store fables...

Let yourself grow old simply to experience
the prerequisite grace to feel oneself pale
before the eyes of the young
to feel disconnected from youth
and still know that the mark you left
on this life
this world
is indelible
its resinous ink
tattooed upon the perimeter
of the black hole
that we all are inextricably becoming

If the decision to shed this coil overwhelms you
what vestige of your ruined humanity will you leave me?
a trail of sanguine blood and maudlin marrow
splintered bone and shattered spirit
defenestrated perception
spent casings of a smoking gun—
I won't read great apologies
for the whom you thought you were
when you inhabited these realms
better you leave no trace, no gory fingerprint
smudge bone blood ash...

Sometimes the beauty becomes so intense

that it overcomes me, floods me
fills every greedy orifice until
all my hungry ghosts run
for a piece of desiccated dessert
humble crow pie.

Like Rilke's angels, I am consumed
by beauty's sheer terror... knowing
my life is so inevitably
infinitesimally small
in the penumbra of who we truly are—

Only this moment consoles me
the awareness of the blessedness
to be born a human being
in the midst of its glorious mess
and shitstained beauty
this slowcoming gratitude for life
for the sake of this human life.

January 12 2014

- Chris Sia, Editor, Lucifer in Handcuffs

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