Unforced Errors

pain-in-knee-when-kneeling

Unforced Errors

Self-inflicted wounds are the worst kind
when you know the hands of your attacker
will fail yet again
to handle the moment of truth,
to record the last out,
to stop that slow dribbler
coming up the first-base line;

A freight train
on the express lane
rumbling down the tracks.

Your feet staked.
You can’t make way.
Forced to stand your ground.
Frozen in looped replay
to watch the moment pass you by
when taking a knee would’ve seized it.

Never to realize
that you can’t buck the system
and its perfectly imperfect code.

© J. Manuel

 

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Victory

Victory descends onto the sun set bow of my warworn ship,

bringing the night’s comfort

On her feathered, rocky wings.

And says of a battle in which she has taken no part,

“You’ve won.”

 

Weary, I kneel on the deck

below her pedestal;

My legs greaved;

My arms braced;

My chest cuirass-constricted;

My fingers gnarly-wrapped around my failing spear.

 

“I am yours,” she says,

And she gives herself to me as a harlot would,

But I cannot pay her price.

Unarmed, she invites me to lay down my arms,

amid peaceful promises,

And yet I hold my shield.

 

“Peace,” she whispers hotly into my ear,

As she caresses my body with one hand,

while the other draws along my spear.

“Let your vestments fall away,

and I will take you to Elysium.”

 

The moon, now overhead,

Beams brightly upon my shield,

Lighting its fading inscription:

Till the light of day.

 

I rise before the headless goddess,

And she takes flight.

The helmsman points the bow toward the dawning sun,

And I stand infirm upon the deck,

readying to stay the hands of fleeting victory.

 

© J. Manuel

 

 

The Merge

You and I

Walk a darkened road; shadeless,

Dimly lit by a street lamp,

That we have yet to reach.

You from that side, along the wall.

Me from this, along the curb.

You on the right.

Me on the left.

 

I anticipate

Your fear

With mine.

The one that knots my guts,

And lumps my throat,

And sweats my palms.

The one that you and I have almost always known.

 

Your father warned you about:

The thief, the murderer, the rapist.

My father warned me about:

The cheat, the liar, the oppressor.

 

We merge under the light.

You sidestep toward the wall.

I to the street.

 

My father said never to corner a wounded animal,

And we are the most dangerous kind.

 

© J. Manuel

 

 

 

 

County Line

County Line

There is a cross on County Line.
Whose? I do not know.
It’s planted in the rocky ground.
Beside it lies the road.

It’s crooked askew and faded.
Its wood exposed off-white.
Next to it lies a marker,
An X by midnight’s light.

I wonder where he was going,
And if he knew somehow,
That I’d be driving by him
To my destination bound?

I detoured this morning.
Spied it in the dawning sun.
A woman bent upon it.
A pink sash around it hung.

Her sorrow full and apparent,
From near then far away,
And there at her feet, a second cross,
Impaled erect and stained.

In the mirror’s light she drifted.
I don’t know where to now.
Should I return this way tonight,
Or continue down the line?

© J. Manuel