Grateful Dead

By Shieva Salehnia

I scrawl these words,
a few lines,
in the hope
they will skip
like smooth and flat stones,
carefully chosen from
down the steep, rocky banks
of the River Acheron,
selected with care
for their even weight and
flat shape
from just under the water’s cold,
clouded blue-brown surface.
I send
these words across
the endless space of time,
to reach you.

My brother spirit,
I hope
the gold darics
for the ferry
have not slipped
into the silt-soft riverbed
from off your russet brown eyes
with their cadmium green specks
like sunlight through Rowan leaves.
I still need you.

Every poem I read now
is about people dying.
I call
my friends and family,
that’s the news, too.
I am being
stoned to death,
What better way
to dam tides
of sorrow
a beer and a friend.
Let’s have a Vicodin, or
a sniff of some
white powder,
it may be.
Let’s be sad —
but together!
My prince of night,
You taught me
how to be grateful
for willing
and excited company.
Your presence
will be
more than enough.

Oh how!
the good ol’ days
turned into
the drunken years
for us.
All before
the first lines
appeared, where the flesh
has been pressed,
folded together by sinew
like closed parenthesis
around the outer edges
of my mouth,
from nostril
to pointed chin.

I feel that aching
from not ever being
able to relax
even for one fucking second.
Oh my goodness!
To be clean and sober,
I want those things.
You knew that aching
too soon in life —
the desperate reach
for the cure-all
the snake-oil
the has-to-be-better-than-this life.
The weight of sap
on your tongue
too heavy
to bear
in the end.

Your soul
was taken
from the kiln
too quickly
cracked in the place
god put glaze on you.
To take fruit
not yet ripe —
so tart and bitter,
to take it in that I
had to
squint my eyes
instead of look at you
head on.

I’ll tell ‘em
you fought like hell, and
how many times
you did save yourself.
I’ll tell ‘em
your light did expand
into the horizon
like the morning sun
at the edges of a cold sea,
like the moon shining
on a dark field of corn
the stalks’ fluttering leaves
in the wind.

god have you
in heaven.
god forgive
your sins.
god bless you,

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