Jason Irwin is the author of the forthcoming collection The History of Our Vagrancies (Main Street Rag), A Blister of Stars (Low Ghost, 2016), Watering the Dead (Pavement Saw Press, 2008), winner of the Transcontinental Poetry Award, and the chapbooks Where You Are (Night Ballet Press, 2014), & Some Days It’sA Love Story (Slipstream Press, 2005). He has an MFA from Sarah Lawrence College. He lives in Pittsburgh. http://jasonirwin.blogspot.com/
Sparrow or Crow
Hope the weather's okay for yous, your voice lilts, holding the ous the way you held on to life: a quiet authority hiding all the pain. Hard to believe spring is once again upon us-- buds on the trees, the distance between us growing longer like the days. There's so much I will never tell you. Still I listen to your voicemails searching for what? Comfort? a refrain? It’s your mother, you say. Call me back. Your turn to play Scrabble! Sometimes a flock of birds fly overhead. I pick one out-- a sparrow or crow-- follow it until it disappears beyond the rooftops-- imagine it’s you.
In a schoolyard a group of children sit eating insects. They taste just like grandma a girl exclaims, munching a centipede. Bananas! A dimple faced boy counters, thrusting a defiant fist into the air. Against the wall the janitor shares a cigarette with a nun. Soon it will be night he smiles, twisting his mustache, and then we can dance.
Don’t we all get tired of the fight, of fighting with each other?
Sure, we sometimes get off on it— that woozy, port wine rush
that makes us believe in our own transcendence.
Then again, it’s always easier to take up the sword,
to give in to fear, to barricade ourselves behind some trumped up wall
of bliss. I admit I’m more than a little obsessed with the headlines.
I can’t stop refreshing the page, scrolling & scrolling,
but maybe it’s time we took on less stressful fetishes, like cat videos,
used underwear, or bad jokes.
Did you hear the one about the world leader who said everyone
was against him, that no one in the history of world leaders was ever treated so bad?
Or the one about that guy from the suburbs who repeated
the said leader’s words— They’re invading. It’s like a plague. Rapists!
Murderers! he cried, as he opened fire on a Saturday morning congregation.
Bukowski said that endurance is more important than truth.
This, in our post-truth, post-fact, endless war, soundbite world seems the new trend.
So if we are going to be truthful, at least for the sake of argument,
aren’t there moments — I mean we all have our moments –
we resemble that world leader we so love to hate?
Sometimes we’re the loud-mouth on the cellphone, the person
who even though he doesn’t need to, parks in the handicapped space,
the one who never cleans the lint trap in the laundry room,
or never says excuse me, or apologies. It’s hard to admit
being an asshole, or a deplorable, but it happens to all of us from time to time.
I imagine there are roles, even De Niro winces at.
Maybe the key is to slow down, cultivate a little empathy. Walk a mile
in someone else’s dirty socks.
What I’m trying to say is when it comes down to it aren’t we all
just doing what we can to get by, working for the weekend as the song goes?
Trying to find those moments that seem fewer & fewer,
when we can proclaim that yes, we are happy & despite the headlines
that do their best to divide us, despite the would-be killers living next door,
despite the viruses, the politicians & preachers, the unpaid bills,
the cancers & monsters hiding in the shadows despite it all, isn’t life,
as brief as it is, beautiful?