Dead Man's Blanket
"There are a thousand ways to kneel and kiss the ground; there are a thousand ways to go home again." --Rumi
I don't know who he was
but he's dead now
and I have his blanket.
I am wrapping myself in it tonight
seeking sleep on the desert floor
but it has failed to keep me warm, so instead
I am watching the wheel of the galaxy
turning endlessly overhead. I am glad
to be an insomniac spectator, front and center
at the greatest show this end of the cosmos
with bats and frogs for company
and the wind and waves to orchestrate.
I stopped today at a roadside church
and lit a candle for my soul at Mary's altar
nevermind I haven't worn the tattered shroud
of religion since before this dead man
wore his blanket.
It doesn't matter to Mary;
whatever I've done
it doesn't have to be repeated
whatever sin I've committed
I don't have to atone for it now.
When I drove on I left that candle burning
and I know she watched over it
open-eyed, hands outstretched and clement.
It is more than I have ever given myself:
this simple mercy.
Now I lay me down to stay awake
cold and sure of nothing
except the planet is still spinning
and I am still here to bear witness.
I wait for the stars to show their faces
and then I speak to them, one by one
first the planets and then
the constellations: scorpio
and the bear and orion
telling them I am still here, alive if not well
and it almost seems that they listen
pausing for a bare second
to bend their stately forms, kindly, nodding.
Startling to be noticed in this way;
I am just a bit of dust wrapped up
in a shit-for-nothing blanket
that once belonged to someone
who now lies below the earth
while I lie on top of it, shivering
like god's own maniac.
But, after all, I am a living maniac
grateful for the dirt and the cold
the finite breath in my lungs
the flawed beat of my little heart.
Someday, somebody will wrap themselves
in an old thing of mine: a silk scarf
a bit of faded denim
the bright weave of a poem.
But it will not be today
because today I am alive
and there are uncharted miles ahead of me;
see, the sun is already at my back
warm, bold, impatient
pressing me on down a desert road.