For my cousin, Charlotte

So it begins
when the brightest star
you’ve seen in the sky
flickers like the ember
of a cigarette
hanging loosely
from a pair of forlorn lips.

Brighter with each breath
until all that remains
are gray ashes scattered
all over the street.

A life can be expressed
in these same terms.

And just like some cigarettes
burn faster than others –

maybe you’re in the mood
to enjoy a smoke
after a luxurious meal
or you’ve only got five minutes
to spare before your
smoke break ends –

a life, a human life,
can span the length
of ten decades, or
in rarer cases,
the saddest cases,
a life, a human life
can last little more than two.

In these instances,
reflecting on the life
in question can be
a painful task,
particularly if the one
leading the life
you’ve taken up the task
of reflecting upon
was somebody close to you.

Ask anyone – it’s just not an easy thing to do.

And I’ve been avoiding it
for a while now because,
let’s face it,
I don’t deal well with despair.

It isn’t for lack of caring.
I’m mostly just scared,
but of what?

The difficulty it seems,
like being 3,000 miles from home
with no money or job prospects,
and wondering
just where the hell you’re going
to go from there.

And yet that frightens me less
than acknowledging this new,
horrible fact of my life.

I was riding the blue line
to Midtown
when I got the phone call,
my mother informing me
of the news.

Gravity reacted in a serious way,
and I sank deep in my seat,
stupefied, struggling
to figure out
the shuddering, viscous amalgam
of emotion boggling my chest.

Most people
would have asked “Why?”
But honestly though,
I know exactly why.

Anyone who has ever arrived
at the crest of desperation
knows why.

See, there are plenty
of those who would say
that life is a gift
or a marvelous opportunity,
the opportunity to breathe
and experience
all that the world has to offer.

But there are those of us,
for whom life
is a ferocious tempest,
and every day we strive
with everything we have
just to keep from drowning,
just to keep our heads
above the hateful waters
to which we’re abandoned.

But after striving so long,
there comes a peculiar calm,
a calm where everything
is permitted and nothing forbidden.

In the throes of such calm,
further striving
seems senseless,
and it makes just as much sense
to return the gift
that nobody really asks
to receive.

Believe me,
I’ve been there, I’ve lived it, I know –

It’s not a question of why,
but what could I have done?

That’s really what scares me,
knowing that I could
have done something,
but didn’t.

Christ, even someone
who’ll listen can be enough
to inspire a person
to keep fighting,
but my ears were always
gummed up with the strains
of my own aspirations,
ego, and dreams.

Now it’s just the pale strains
of a lament playing
over a super 8 reel of memories,
times when we were closer.

Happier times
before the world threw us
into that tempest
where we struggled so long,
where I could have
offered a hand,
where I never saw
that you had ceased to fight,
had laid on your back
and let the waves overtake you.

-r. miller


5 thoughts on “Waves

  1. Life can indeed be a cruel master, seemingly wanting to keep you downtrodden. It also does not help when we must pander to those high above, the almighty rulers or every element of society. Conquering them is a victory, but it loses meaning if we supplant them instead of changing the structure.

  2. It’s hard, losing someone like that, but, eventually, you’d come to realize, that IF you let the memories trap you, you will NEVER be able to move forward, and your lives are STUCK, and that, would be when you realize, that you need to START walking again, and, healing still takes a TON of time, and, there’s NO way of making this process go any faster, and I truly hope you feel better soon…

  3. Your poem struck a chord with me & it’s true, “…after striving so long, there comes a peculiar calm.” I just know my loved ones would want me to be happy – it helps.

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