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Ode to the Critics

Wayne James

For T. S. Eliot, James Joyce, and Rock and Roll

Someday, after you have read this,
you will take it apart
-- assemble, disassemble, reassemble --
analyze and criticize.
You will twist it and turn it,
then say it means this or that.
But how can you presume to understand?
Where were you when the muse called,
pulling me away from a quest for death?
Where were you when the page was blank?

Where were you when the world was new,
my mind a slate clear of yesterdays,
my eyes filled with wonders --
the blue of the sky, the green of the grass?
Where were you during that spring of life
when everything seemed possible?

Where were you when summer came,
thunderclouds darkening the sky,
the drops falling heavy and thick --
lines of silver blotting out the world --
and I losing my way?

Trudging through the rain young and alone,
I moved farther and farther from myself,
farther and farther from my home.
Then came the sun—burning brilliant and hard
--so bright it blinded me.
I wandered over baking sands,
through city streets, down country roads
searching for a solution to the eternal question.

I searched bright and shining dark places;
I searched always in the dark --
light eluded me, defied me.

I searched test tubes and bottles,
peered inside molecules,
trying to unravel the mystery,
but finding only deeper darkness --
darkness draped with bright and shining lies.

A song said conform or be cast out --
so I sang a silent rebellion
deep within the smithy of my soul.

I found myself surrounded by strangers
I thought were friends.
I found myself face down in a parking lot --
finding fear in a handful of dust,
the boot hard upon my back.

Bearing down —- it pinned me to the truth --
a finger twitched on the trigger.
I heard the primal scream.

Leaden skies reeling above,
steel bit into my wrist --
crushing my illusions,
waking my voice.

And you, where were you
when those chains entangled me
and took my life away?

Where were you when I stood before the man in black --
swaying under the weight of his words --
and I was afraid?

Where were you when I was buried alive --
my grave a six by nine hole of concrete and steel --
trying to put down the words,
the noise of a thousand lives surrounding me,
the words resisting?

Where were you when I stood naked and shivering,
cold wind blowing, cold rain pouring down --
drops of driven silver blotting out the remnants of my life
while red mud oozed between my toes?

Where were you when I was a pair of ragged claws?

Tell me.
Where were you when the page was blank?

About the Author (click here) © 1997 Wayne James, all rights reserved
 appears here by permission

EDITOR'S NOTE: This work will appear in an anthology of Wayne's fiction and poetry, schedule for publication in 2000, from Hadrosaur productions. The tentative title is When Only the Moon Rages.

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