God on the cross beside himself accuser
and accused do not say tribe clan nation
race do not say en masse many peoples
death comes one by one in the murderous
chambers and locked burning barns
the body-strewn rice fields the fire-bombed
cities on Stalingrad’s two lines the first
to kill the Germans the second to shoot
their own men running away one
by one make no lists necessary impossible
to name them all all of history recall
as best you can what names you know
start with your own keep reciting so
my aunt the tumor in her jaw grown

so large it rivaled her head my mother
in her desolate hospital bed writhing
in wretched pain maddened by Parkinson’s
choking to death my father talking
of his boyhood Staten Island farm then
I’m tired rolling away from me one last
time or yesterday the bum in the park
beating his dog with hand and stick God
near infinitely far the pain like prayer
perhaps if pain is lamentation expiring
on the cross so lost for words he must quote
a psalm forsaken into pain and dread
of the last breath he breathes with us one
by one or do we not breathe at all

number 22 in the 2River Chapbook Series