I joked a few years back that I write a poem about once every decade. In practice, that’s close. (Whether that’s a good thing is your call, I suppose…)
“It is better to burn up than to rust.”
The letters are neat, angular, mixed case, casual, not
the harried rude scrawl of obscenity, not
the bombastic fat roundness of a street boast.
This morning a reporter called asking about hidden messages
in art he’d done for your magazine, about clippings
and drawings he glued into dense busy collages and whether
they might have been clues to explain. You didn’t blame the
paper. We wanted answers: why him, why now, why that way?
But he’d left no note and the art was not a note.
Yet — the graffiti. It could be someone else looking for
answers, imagining the choice he might have posed that cold
morning. And maybe it was his answer, on his way down to
the stone steps by the bay, gas can in hand.
The next morning the words are gone. The janitor had no
qualms or questions, just a spray bottle and a dirty rag and
a job to do.
But every so often someone else writes it out again
somewhere, impermanent black marker posing a stark hopeless
choice between a quick all-consuming flame or slow bitter rot.
And it is too late to reason with them or rage at them, to
argue that God himself has no answers for them when
the question itself is wrong.
There is always another way.