“Few Shall Answer”

                                         Many are called
to burn at least one thing they once owned …
Rick Barot

You write that many are called, but Etruscan
murals are what come to mind, a neighbor’s
coffee table book filled with blank pages below

a lithograph, its image stolen from a decrepit church.
Where are the many, my friend? In a factory,
or on a farm struggling in the dark before the rooster?

Are they out trimming the hedges while the mist
lifts from the countryside, entire walls
of it evaporating into the stagnant air?

Sometimes the sea shimmers in its oily
skin, the cliffsides climb into a clean
light, and everything—almost everything—is

as it should be. But for now, the girl
lying bent double on the railing is a Piero
painting coming apart, her shirt unbuttoning,

the leaflets of her hem, her dress
billowing like bad weather.
Many are called. Many are called into

their madness, the voices along the cliffs moving in
and out of their ears as they did before,
as they did when no-one

yet knew the word schizophrenia.
What great multitude, what great assembly
is called to mind? Many are called into the air,

right here along the Pacific’s edge, and are
taken up in a draft and buoyed. Seeing things in
this way, how could I not believe there was another way,

that the body taken from the bridge was merely opening
at its seams, its bad humors spilling. But nothing
can reverse the terror and the heart quickening

as the body then falls away from you. Was my own heart
incapable of recognizing dread in that woman’s final moment?
I once heard a woman explain that her stillborn

son had cried against her chest, his breath
furrowing under button after button
of her hospital gown, his breath terribly

quick in the way it shifted and fingered
her skin. Is this how the mind stops?
Many are called to do so many things, my friend.

And, as always, few shall answer. Listen to C. Dale Young reading this poem.