Charles Chaim Wax
God’s Shining Light - Poem by Charles Chaim Wax
“Bernstein, ” said Clarence,
“I seen this girl walking down the street
with her little school books
and I knew she was for me.
I knew she was the mother of my children.
She smiled and said, ‘I feel it too.’
Man, in the beginning
with that woman just everything was right,
good, pure, true and perfect.
The Lord anointed us with oil
and we dwelt in the land of milk and honey.
We were married for four years.
They were like the Return to the Garden.
That was a long time ago,
but you know all them years from then til now
it don’t never ever all get lost.
A little always be with me.
Hell, I never knew what happened.
Don’t know to this day what happened.
She just stopped loving me,
told me right to my face
there was another dude
and she was going away
and that was that.
I punched her dead flat in the mouth
and said, ‘Says what? ’
She looked up at me from the floor
with blood coming out her mouth.
I looked in her eyes.
Then I grabbed her up
and said, ‘Say, what? Bitch.’
I smacked her face hard,
but she didn’t do nothing
and she was from the streets,
she knew how to fight.
But she didn’t do nothing.
She just look at me.
She didn’t raise a hand
or wipe the blood from her mouth
or cry or scream.
She just look.
Hell, what could I do?
Beat her dead senseless.
I never forget that day.
I calls it the Day of the First Drunk.
It funny now, then...
You know like you see in the James Cagney flicks
dudes scratching lines for days
or weeks or years
on the walls in prison.
Hell, I had my drunk days
scratching lines in concrete with my face.
They all kinds of prison.
I asked God.
I got down on my knees,
I prayed to the LORD GOD,
I prayed for nights and nights.
I asked GOD what is happening here?
Why is this happening to me?
What should I do?
What I wanted to do was rip her throat out.
In my mind I kept watching her body
move in and around this other dude.
She grew up in my arms
and when she was grown she went away.
The boys said, ‘Get you a gun
and kill her ass. You one of us now.
NOW you understand,
and we with you.’
The LORD GOD didn’t come to me then.
HE cut me off from his safety
and put me far from grace.
I said to her, ‘Say something to me.
Say why to me.’
All she said was, ‘It’s gone—you want me to lie? ’
How you stop loving somebody you love?
How you do that?
You ain’t a light switch.
You ain’t a water faucet: off and on.
It don’t work that way.
Love come from some part of your mind
where you can’t get to easy—
it’s a deep place. I was lost.”
“Why didn’t you go to a bar and get another woman? ” I asked.
“I did, ” Bernstein.
“I went. I looked.
I said to myself, ‘Heil,
she don’t want me, plenty other women
die for that chance.’
But when I went to the bars the women
didn’t have no face.
I was in a distant land amid strangers.
I had no heart for anyone.
I took the kids to my daddy.
He told me, ‘Son, you a man,
a child of the Living God.
Don’t put yourself into Satan’s jaws
too many there already.
Everybody know it ain’t easy to suffer.
Satan know this too,
and then he come to you in the night,
in the naked dark.
He come with guns, hatred, wickedness,
drink, madness. He come to take away
Faith in the Living God.
And when that Faith go
we go down
in the deep and foul swamps
away from His Light.’
I said, ‘He cut me off from His Safety.
Where be his grace? ’
My father said, ‘The Living God
always inside you.
Don’t you ever say to my face
while there is breath in me
that the Living God cut you off from His Safety.
In my house there shall be no talk
of God forsaking His children
His children do forsake Him.
I say to you again
the Living God,
the God who took us out of Slavery
and the God who made the sun and moon
and stars and green grass and lights
that Living God knows what
must happen inside you
before you can see the Everlasting Shining Holy Light:
you got to love her even for what she done to you.
When you can love her
as God loves her
you be free.’
I did the bottle with pretzles six months
Counting in those days got a bit sketchy.
Dead drunk every day,
used all my saving for drink.
But then I couldn’t feel my arms no more.
They were cold and heavy
like a hundred hammers be beating
on them every day
and more and more and more
you had to drink to get less and less drunk.
My chest began to hurt
all the time
like a hole was growing there
and soon my heart was going to fall out.
My body took all the pain of my soul into itself.
I be walking down the street
and be pissing in my pants,
and all manner of foul things
I don’t ever want to have to say.
I know what you be thinking.
I see it in your eyes…
but I cleared my heart.
I cleaned out my heart to the bottom with fire.
I sucked on fire.
I stood on the street corner,
took a drink and put a match there
and spit out long silver blue golden flames
and screamed out loud:
I AM THE FIERY FURNACE.
I AM THE FLAMES OF HELL.
I was so numb that I felt
like I was swimming thru cool rainbows.
Then my hair caught fire
and the cops came
and took me to Bellevue.
My head was hurting like nothing
I ever felt before
cause the scalp was burnt tight and crisp.
Then I spent some time with the crazy folks there.
They put me in the back wards
where only the real gone dudes stay.
I seen stuff there taught me about GOD for sure.”
“Like what did you see? ”
“Why you want to know for? ”
“If you so curious you go see for yourself.
I don’t want to speak about those folks.
I ain’t got no right.
All I know is that I saw GOD’S TRUTH
in those folk’s eyes.
I stood up and said to GOD:
In this moment I let her go.
As YOU love her
so I love her.
I wish her well although she can’t ever be mine.
I set myself free.
That’s what my daddy meant
when he said that GOD can’t set you free.
HE don’t want to do that.
HE want to let you set yourself free
so you can know even a little,
little bit what it is to have GOD inside you.
That’s what GOD meant to teach us
when he breathed into the clay
and sent us into time.
My daddy said, ‘You home now.’ “
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