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Poetry

Coming into the kingdom
I was like a man grown old in banishment,
a creature of hearsay and habit, prayerless, porous, a survivor of myself.
Coming into the kingdom
I was like a man stealing into freedom when the tyrant dies,
if freedom is freedom where there are no eyes to obstruct it,
if the cold desert and the hard crossing were still regions of me.
I remember unremembered mountains, unspeakable weeds,
a million scents and sights I did not recognize
though they flowed through me like a land I inhabited long before belonging or belief.
Coming into the kingdom
I was like a man who imagines a city in flames and a city at peace
and sets out not knowing whether his homecoming
will be cause for sorrow or rejoicing,
or if indeed there will be one soul that knows him,
or if he is even the same assemblage of cells this side of exile,
or if exile is no longer what he once entered but what he is.
I tried to cry out in the old way
of thanksgiving, ritual lamentation, rockshriek of joy.
There was no answer. Had there ever been?
Remembering it now I do not remember
the arduous journey that must have rendered me a beast,
nor the broad gates opening at the last,
nor the children gathering around me in wonder,
nor the slow reclamation of a life I had been so long denied,
the million instants of exile told in tears.
Coming into the kingdom
I came into the damp and dirtlight of late November in north Chicago,
where the water-lunged bus chuffs and lumbers up Montrose,
and Butch’s back gate’s broken latch is impervious to curses,
and wires crisscross the alley like a random rune,
and an airplane splits and sutures the blue as it roars for elsewhere.


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