“my existence is benign”


Irving Feldman
To move forward with the world, to be
in time with time … is innocence.
For a thousand miles the wave keeps pace,
strokes smoothly on in phase with force,
at one with the festive crowd
and one of its joyous more and more;
it buoys itself and drives ahead,
renews in the trough the power it
expends at the crest, shape it then
surpasses and leaves to lapse behind.
I love my innocence, it chants,
see my transparence, I have nothing to hide,
therefore, I cannot ever die;
my existence is benign, the air
I breathe is borrowed from no one;
the drowning see my breath, and smile
— except the evil, whose badness starves them,
monsters, they merit their bulging eyes.
I bask and sing, am smooth and shine.

The figure in the wave, kneeling, half dazed,
half drowned, battering its head on the ground,
lifted and pushed forward inches, chokes
and blusters into the water running down…
Out of time, sea-sick, sucking
the slack scum between wave and wave, here
is when you discover in the reflux
the theme of age: the falsity of innocence
— your every breath an act of power,
you live to injure, survive by murder;
while you were lethal, you were innocent;
floundering in the raging slop,
powerless now, you grasp the fact of power.
Your lung half bitter broth, you blurt:
Existence is my enemy, my life
attacks me; my past, maimed and vengeful,
returns in a wave, is heaving inside me;
my retching rises to possess me — the dead,
large with my past power, overpower me.
Grievance is death usurping my throat,
is death already speaking out as me.
— And you struggle to spit it all out,
you struggle not to go under, struggle
to assent to indeed go under as
an equal who negotiates with death.

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