Events blur by a while: it seems Li-ling
has helped you to the lobby, brought her car
around and whisked you to a packed ER;
forceps have pulled a bullet out of you;
kind hands have wrapped bandages round your feet
and tied your forearm in a shoulder-sling.
Six weeks, and you will be as good as new.
Now you are swaying on your own home street
under the spell of some sweet opiate.
Orin the Visionary Voice of Doom
had kindly stayed behind to baby-sit.
You find your darling daughter sleeping more
tranquilly than she ever has before,
and you, too, ache to go lie down. . .
and you, too, ache to go lie down. . . but hold it—
there is a carcass in your living room.
The walking wounded, you can’t deal with it.
Even before you ask, your friend has rolled it
up in the kilim, dragged it out the door.
The power is out, and so no elevator.
You watch him push the bundle, floor by floor,
down to the loading dock, out to the alley.
Goodbye to what’s-his-face, obsessive hater
of his own humankind. That’s one more task
completed. Now there’s nothing left to do
but ponder what has happened.
but ponder what has happened. Stoned, you ask
Orin if he foresaw the grand finale—
that creep, his rifle, Li-ling strangling him.
He says, “I saw his gun, my chest. I knew
I had to face him. All the rest was dim.
No, I was just a human medium.
I glimpsed mere moments of a Master Plan
but never knew it Alpha to Omega.
Henceforth I will be happy to be mum
about the future. What will come will come.
I want to be an ordinary man
who sleeps the night through, stops at the bodega
for coffee in the morning, works eight hours
and hits the bars. I want to be as blind
to fate as all the rest of humankind.
Misery—that’s what comes from special powers.”
Back up in the apartment, Orin gives
your sleeping child a parting coochy-coo.
His handshake with Li-ling turns to a hug.
When she inquires, “What are you going to do—
you know—out there?,” he answers with a shrug,
then says, “what every person does who lives
without a calling and without a goal:
breathe without knowing what I’m breathing for.”
With that, he walks out through your riddled door
into a future partly under his control.
. . . . .
All Grown Up
Li-Ling is in the kitchen with a broom
sweeping up remnants of the late affair
in which she squeezed the life out of a crazy
killer and saved the human race. You, hazy
on the sofa in the living room,
are lying on your right side, your good shoulder,
watching Savannah in her bouncy-chair.
Her little legs keep pushing at the tile
they soon enough will toddle on. You smile.
How much you want your girl, as she gets older,
to drink in, as if from a sippy cup,
happiness from the passing of her days.
But you are whom these novels had to raise;
you are the one who has at last grown up.