FOUR IN THE AFTERNOON
The Sixth Station of the Cross
She makes it just in time
by a minute
pushes to the front
his face already pressed
between pages of her past
with hers now pressed at him
the latest weight of wood
at an arm's length
from her thin grip on sanity
bearing the burden
of a world gone mad
upon his back
a peeling mask of bleeding
salt and tears
she moves to him
lifting the loose folds
of her robe
in swathes and bandages
about his broken head
and he prints out his agony
into her hands
upon her soft dress cloth
shocks them with the stab
of thorns and nails
as always as before
brings her back
from the edge of darkness
as always as before
leaves her with nothing but
the knowledge of himself.
Outside the warm lighted classroom
with the rain banging on the road
you stopped in here at last
to say you were leaving.
Two cities in less than two years
before that you have forgotten how many.
This time the going hurts more
for the tall red-headed boy
with the rain in his hair and steaming jumper
stands moonfaced in the open doorway
watching you as in a flood
you tell me how the crowded years have been.
And I wheel silently confounded
at the centre of your desperation -
your hooded half smile toward the door
'Lee cares - and at least he's gentle.'
Before him the boy with the knife
and other things that will bang in my head
like the rain, tomorrow, after you're gone
with a neat red line through your name.
You always sat somewhere vaguely to the left
and I taught you more about talking in class
than I ever did about poetry
tossing your hair with wild defiant eyes.
But now you are easy, 'See ya then Sir
thanks for evrythin - and for lisnin.'
Swinging down and out
to the tall boy with the red hair.
I watch you go, silently to the outside
where the rain is banging on the road - and
more, here with a pile of papers
I close my eyes against an early darkness.
Humid heat and sticking, my blue shirt sags
my fingers are clenched at rough edges of
the desk and I pray to whatever gods there be:
that you can go this time, in safety, somewhere.