NILES: The Unknown Health of Eternity

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NILES: The Unknown Health of Eternity

Thirteen stars with stripes 
arranged like a blank musical staff 
waiting for that step into sound. 
A one-penny Washington 
cancelled and standing on his head. 
2:30 p.m. in Niles, Michigan, 
one week before Christmas, 
103 years ago, less than two years from 
the guns of August. 

NILES: The Unknown Health of Eternity

The beginning of a new world 
born with the same shovels 
which dug lines of defense 
and zigzagging graveyards 
hoping for budding flowers 
to rise out of the bodies, 
seeds planted in repetitious death. 
No flowers turning with the sun. 
No lives pointed into the skies 
with solemn and crackling beacons. 
Only white teeth 
chewing the seasons 
with long rows of stones 
chiseled with the basics: 
name, rank, date of life and death. 

Across the ocean 
from the graveyards, 
water rising and falling, 
submerged land in which 
the tides of blood 
would be swept away, 
made colorless by 
the depth and long miles 
covered by the sea. 

Back in Niles, 
that borrowed, 
ancient-river name, 
beautiful trees planted 
where there may have been 
fields of grass on unsettled land, 
living masts with leaves 
like tiny sails rustling. 
Intersections without cars. 
Two ladies as wrapped and covered 
as the women of most profound Islam. 
One might be pushing a pram 
containing a child the same age 
as my father born that year, 
connected to tens of millions 
of still-beating hearts 
from the 19th century, 
and those knowing many 
who were born in the 18th century, 
backward in time 
to an earth 
uncovered by 
the advances 
we consider with 
so much pride. 

But how far have we come, 
we who live with the illusions 
of things spinning their light 
in the darkness, 
crossing miles to show us 
life and death within 
the colors of rainbows, 
shades of darkness 
and momentary sun-heated blindness 
in which we catch glimpses 
of what we call paradise. 

The flashbulb of every sun 
firing simultaneously 
in this universe of shadows. 
Our opening eyes 
blazing out and taking in 
the light from billions of years 
which could be 
a blinking of eternal sight. 

All worries long ago buried, 
as a star would explode and 
take centuries to notify us 
that its fire has cooled 
into the uncarved shapes 
of a dance company 
spinning in the darkness, 
waiting for the animation 
of sound suggesting 
the next steps they might take. 
Alone, unknown, as empty 
as the angry hearts of angels. 

How is Uncle 
Hemery. Why 
Don't you write and let 
me no. I don't no where 
Mama is left here Monday 
so you no I am worried 
to think I dont here 
from any of you.