I Knew a Man

I knew a man who was like a bruise,
slow internal bleeding gathering
in dark pools under the skin.
To be touched was pain to him;
he carried himself as though
the very weight of his flesh was agony.
His last words, spoken to an empty room:
Is it so bad just to want a little relief?

I knew a man who was like a tomb.
Once he was hale and unctuous and full of God,
but when God died, he closed up shop,
leaving everything just as God had left it.
He lived with the grim determination
of a pallbearer, and after him lingered
the faint scent of camphor and roses.

I knew a man who was like a poem,
clearly visible, but hard to understand.
He slipped and slid between equivocations,
inviting, but ever just out of reach
behind the next extravagance of expression.
He kept the soliloquy going
until death took the pen from his hand
and wrote the last verse in language
anyone could understand.

I knew a man who was like a mountain.
All who knew him thought him immovable,
but all the while he was being worn down
by unseen wind and ice. In the end,
subterranean forces dragged him down
in a final, fiery subduction.
He had no choice, then, but to flow.

I knew a man who was like a candle.
He gave himself away in a silent, steady
stream of light. Whoever came near
was illuminated, and some learned
by his example to light their own flames.
He burned up long ago, but never again
will there be total darkness.