By Francis Ittenbach
Honorable Mention, Poetry, Create | Encounter 2021
What more could I have asked of you today;
My bloodstream, had I given you a say
You would have brought a corpse to mind, the weight
Of haunted summers waiting in the wings
To choke the cherry blossoms with amber waves
And desolate another holy thing –
Oh, how I tripped on the selfsame tripwire time
And time again, and thought I’d seen the final day
But never doubted you, Brutus, that damned
Et tu still clanging in my skull.
And I might trip again tonight, I know,
So I’ll swallow the blood of heaven, begin to babble
And resurrect a prayer I once knew,
Recite the midnight verdict of my sin.
This pig Latin like summer’s chill pursues
A sacred verse I may have known before
Across Atlantic moon-drug waves, the sound
Like something a child might have said, ignored,
These engines’ quietus a pregnant pause
Underscored by a penitential sword.
This confession is a cup, a black swan,
Reminding me of rituals and saints,
And relics and relations between hopes
And hatred that I hold and hear in those faint
Wingflaps which bring to mind an image of
The sacrament, the one I run from now,
The picture of a lifelike soot-black dove
Descending, only then to catch a lift
And open into canyons cut from air,
To tremble on the rim then drift away.
This piece is a poetic engagement with self-abuse, both physical and mental, though with an eye toward desiring to move beyond such practices while still being firmly entrenched in such a pattern. Deeply intertwined with mental illness, the poem is a reflection on struggling with the value of one’s own life while in the thrall of depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder. It is an acknowledgement through religious motifs and those of the natural world, in verses moving from six to four to two lines with a protean rhyme scheme derived from the early poems of T.S. Eliot, of the deep beauty found when reminding oneself of their inherent worth as a human.