Converdance - Timothy Johnson
“Death is green.
She wears it like a cotton dress
wet, and soft as the earthing under a bed of needles.
Like maggots wear a carcass, or
iron through a man’s wrists.
She can’t escape it, try as she might,
any more than you can believe it.
Because you too are green
and all that is green must meet death,
linger late over one last cornerbooth coffee.
Or walk a mile of iron tracks
to find her in a watery ditch
and smelling of cinnamon and rotten peaches.
Or with the intake of breath
over an unpadded crib,
knowing safety is an illusion.
Every green tree, every green love,
every voyage and every contentment
has her number, calls death at home.
I cannot tell you she loves you. She doesn’t.
I can’t even tell you that she is good, remember.
That is a shortcut of a lie, but
death is green. And,
there is no God. I’m sorry to tell you like this.
But there. You are finally free to meet him now
in August fields where you once ran,
swishing against dry grass, crickets creaking
and burrs under socks.
Mind the thorns of the hedgeapple tree, and
bring a friend because
you will never speak with God
when the voices you carry alone drown him out.
So sit quietly together.
Throw the fruit at the trunk if you must.
Loft it to splatter in wild flowers.
Let it split and you can smell it.
Break it open to prophesy these truths.
There you will find him.
When we sat there, I had only one question:
You were supposed to be making all things new.
Why do we still live these carrion days?
And all he said was, When I met her
Death was green.
And she is green.
And when she heeds the word
and flattens hills and mountains,
we will all be green again.
But for now, I know your guilt is great;
even fifty-two resurrection rests cannot comfort you.
Forty days of light won’t do it.
You’re open wounds from head to soul.
And it’s all of us.
Our protests of peace preach words of war.
Those who occupy fields eat too little,
and those who occupy suits eat too much.
And for all we know, we just sold our own winter
for a summer of storms.
Listen, they pepper-spray people to start a conversation.
I would like to tell you that there is an army readied,
messengers of God steady at the door
to come in firing
and put justice on a throne, throw
up a tent for shade, and
pave a highway through the desert.
But he long ago rose off the mountain
and left us to love for ourselves.
All we have for help is our synchronized breath.
And so there’s nothing between us, I will speak plainly. I spent last year depressed. As a result, I got fired in October, the Monday after we confirmed Jill was pregnant. Our community house lost steam. A draft of a novel spent nine months unedited. I felt like a bad and a lazy and a stupid person. Who can’t just show up at an easy job every day and do easy work? I felt like I flunked the whole year.
One morning this January I woke up and I felt okay for once. And the next day was good too. And then I had a week, and then two weeks. I was terrified to not feel awful. But I’m not depressed right now. My novel is filling out, but slowly. I don’t really have a job. I’m doing this temp thing that’s boring me to tears.
And Jill’s still got that kid growing in her belly.
While I want to believe that all these deaths
will be fully green, I can only see shoots.
There’s a swelling, like they say.
And I hope that April is only the cruelest month
if you fight it. If you expect it to save you,
instead of just letting it be,
instead of refusing to believe we need
death to be green.
Because we do. Even if there’s no romance
in her stench. Even if you can’t wash the glow
off Fukishma and Chernobyl, or
the slime from the shores of Indonesia.
Even though we are all death times death. Fat off
plagues and rich off wars. We’re Lannisters and Hitlers,
and we come from strong stock.
But we’re also Days and Ben-Jospephs.
We’ve had a long love affair with trees.
We are dead stars breathed into life.
So all I ask that you give us your hands, and
we’ll be friends becuse we are not slumbering here.
I won’t claim to be Puck, or Tiresias.
Or even Isaiah, who accused us
of being grasshoppers while
God lounges on the horizon.
Because something changed when God ripped
the curtain down to show that he wasn’t Oz
pulling at levers. He pulled it down to show us
there was no one there at all.
You didn’t need to keep trying
to make that leap of faith.
The word of God became green.
My good friend and inspiration wrote this poem for a prayer vigil prior to Easter during the flurry of MOtM. I heard it on Sunday after my life had been emptied for the festival.
Today is always new. Now is always the time. Here is where we are found. We can choose to scrap for a piece or become a participant. No excuses, no scapegoats, no judgements. Are you ready to dance?