rachmaninoff      off key – a poem by d. ellis phelps

rachmaninoff …….off key
.

a minister
maybe…….a member

of the house of restoration
this man……stands

in the street
asking…….for handouts
&
my hand’s out
the window

holding…….spare change

~

coming toward me

—his steps…….tentative
—his eyes…….locked on mine

he stops

a few feet from me
takes a tiny bow

~

emboldened by this:

act of prayer
he approaches

holding a pamphlet
in his large…….dark

hand…….he hands

me the slip

for the son of man
has come to seek
and to save that
which was lost
it says

~

this man’s story
i do not know

but i…….have seen
his eyes…….in my mirror

drunk
punctured

flatness…….looking back

—song birds…….soaked
…….in oil

~

perhaps like saul…….like me

(persecutor
persecuted)

his name has changed
& now…….a witness

he wears…….fluorescent-yellow
—vestments— city-issued

that make
his claim

to this intersection:

—of failure
…….and faith

legal

~

you say
god helps those
who help themselves
 
and my hand
out the window

will only encourage
his begging

i say

there comes…….a blackness
 
consuming
 
when flesh…….abandons bones
when confounding voices     
 
deafen reason
 
when every hand
on every clock
 
turns back
to the hour
 
of your regret
 
& the whiskey
you loved
 
stings
—nettle in your blood
 
regret…….ballooning
in your veins
 
as you needle
through…….one more
 
hour
 
like rachmaninoff…….off key
 
and you cannot stop
 
you cannot…….stop
you…….cannot stop
 
      ~
 
and you feel
your body
 
crawling
crawling
 
to its end
 
begging
begging
 
to be
 
blinded
 
by
 
the light

d. ellis phelps’ poetry, art, and essays appear most recently or are forthcoming online and in print in The Enchantment of the Ordinary; Texas Poetry Calendar 2019; Poets & Dreamers:  Dreamers and Displaced Issue; & Voices de La Luna.  She is the author of Making Room for George, a novel and of the blog formidableWoman.  She is co-founder and animating director of the poets for peace, San Antonio reading series. recently serving as managing editor for the inaugural anthology of that group, The Larger Geometry:  poems for peace (peaceCenter Books, 2018).

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