Martin Willits | Selected poems

Opus 18

A house of yellow rain

has fallen heavily on vast fields.

What we do next depends upon too many possibilities,

locked in a chest.

This is why the world never gets anything done.

Heat increases, clicking like a beetle.


Death has taken all the pretty colors.

When someone asks what time it is,

do not look for a clock on the moon;

answer, honestly: It is too late.


When someone asks you: Where you are going

in such an incredible hurry,

you better be carrying a plank for an ark,

focused on how many you can still save.


When they roll their eyes thinking you are foolish,

you better be putting dark pitch between the cracks

so nothing leaks. Watertight

is better than swimming lessons.


Today, death checked once again

to see if I was ready,

saw I was busy helping others,

noticed later, I was writing in burnishing heat,

again later, humming a note containing God’s smile,


death merely moved on to someone less prepared.



Is There a Beyond?

Ashes are the beginning and omega. First,

for kindling fire; then, when new wood burns down,

the cycle repeats. Is the ash now new; or old life?

Is a river of sun over the blue mountains; or,

is the sun nothing more than stone?


Is there a Beyond beyond the Beyond?

What is waiting in death? Is it a draining river?

Is it like the spine of a tree witnessing passing years

with echoing rings? Is it all flammable distance?

Is the stillness breathing?


Yes, sizzle the cicadas, like snowflakes,

belonging and not belonging, sharing strangeness.

The soundless branches know distance and closeness,

both being in sunlight and darkness —

shells of wrinkling voices, like all disappearances.


Martin Willits


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