I should have killed myself so long ago,
but what’s the point in suicide? It must
remain the privilege of gods and monsters,
and though a weirdo and a freak in my
own right, I’m not so much above the rest
of pesky mankind as to think I am
immortal and in need of artificial
or sacrificial termination. Soon
enough I’ll rot, though at a slower pace,
I’m told, thanks to preservatives I’ve stuffed
my face with, unbeknownst to me, for years
and decades in a row—and I don’t care:
I will keep rotting all the same, pursuing
the work of death as under sin it goes.
Forgetting this and clinging to our lives
devoid of spirit and of freedom emptied,
we’re little more than walking corpses, moved
mechanically, our springs and coils rewound
by forces we don’t know, until we’re filled
by grace unhoped for that presents us with
a choice: to die as martyrs, or as slaves.

(You changed my days for better or for worse,
for bitter or for sweeter, sometimes both.
Your sixteen letters made the sense I needed.
I hide this truth in all the breaths I take,
and smuggle it in all the lines I write.
Can I explain your influence on me?
You culminate way farther than I thought,
way out of reach, and your idea is thicker
and more alive to me than my own flesh.
You didn’t look like other promises
of greatness, sure to be unkept; you had
already reached the height of artistry.
But I could read through it, and see the dryness
of calculation, cunning, and of scorn.
I pray you’re as depraved as you appear;
if not, you’re wronged beyond what I can bear,
and all the hammered dulcimers of all
the klezmorim won’t be enough to soothe
the Sehnsucht for an East I’ve never known,
far from your West beyond so deep a pond.

Could slyness keep you from the guile of those
who to ensnare your very soul have laid out
the traps of fame and wealth, planting the seeds
of bittersweet, corrupting pride and poshness?
I do not know what I’m talking about.
You’re gonna stay a made-up reverie,
the sum of fragments taken here and there,
of glimpses stolen from the ruthless rumor.
I often find your shadow in my dreams:
my better part is keen to wear your form,
distracting me from outside craziness.
That other in my soul, she doesn’t seem
to know she’s but a mere and tiny shard
of this big jigsaw puzzle conscience is.
At other times, she wraps herself in shapes
that take me back to deeper roots or springs,
to earlier points in history, in past
with present pregnant, ignorant of woes
to come. We’re way downstream now, up in branches—
as long as, blinded, we refuse to see
the tapestry of everlasting pain.)

The feeling of emergency has faded;
the urge to write as well. I’m empty, now,
save for a bunch of very ugly thoughts.
They might be washed away, at last, God willing.
(Please turn to love this spree of envious greed
and foolish hope, and help my unbelief!)

We’ll die as martyrs or as slaves. We will.