“like like like” by Joel Best

“like like like”

beyond the spirit village
beyond every lonely ghost
a ribbon of lake
like a giant child worked a toy shovel
like the child dug a furrow
like the child filled the furrow with ink
like like like
say the word too many times
it sounds wrong
forget like
say the lake is black
that works

the murderous rain
hammering from above
we huddle in tiny shacks
made of dripping bark
the trees by this lake have died
murdered by bleak winds
we settle in
let the weather do its worst
we make horns at the sky

was that you singing in the night I ask a man
who will not speak his own name
will not say why
obviously there is a reason
such a lovely song I tell him
soulful and comforting
its resonance rose above the storm
which is no small trick
not me the man says
can’t carry a tune in a bucket
he seems ashamed for the admission
for reasons unknown

my home by the lake
shack by a large gray stone
the stone seems to have a face
maybe someone I once knew
or perhaps a stranger
the shack and its earthen floor
once uneven
impossible to sleep upon
until I stamped the dirt flat

the man who won’t say his name
what he wants to talk about
late in the damp night
is a wife left behind
when angels spoke
telling him to abandon the old life
and search
for the new
the angels who whispered to everyone here by the lake
we know the sound of those voices
like broken glass in a cardboard box
like like like

by the light of the evening fire
the wood laced with chemical deposits
we are two people by a lake
each with a story to tell
maybe if there were wine
the stories might be easier to hear
the fire burns purple and green
moths throw themselves into the flames
abstracts swell in our vision

the man describes his wife crying at the end
how it tore him apart
he never would have left
if not for the angels
their commands
you cannot ignore the sound of an angel’s voice
it is quite unfair
what did I do to deserve this he asks
though of course there is no answer
and there is another by the lake
she has asked herself
the same question

the final hours with my husband
are too difficult to recall
I’ve lost track of the details
like a hole has yawned in my thoughts
it’s an unhealthy way to live
like the burning moths
like like like
some lifeforms are destined by nature
to self-destruct

by Joel Best

Editor’s Note: At first this poem reads like a celebration of solitude and weather, but then the narrative winds down into itself and the last two lines drive home the true nature of this beast.


One response to ““like like like” by Joel Best”

  1. Ed Shacklee Avatar
    Ed Shacklee

    I had a misgiving in the first stanza that this might end up being a poem about word use in poems, but boy was I wrong. A heartrending close, an amazing piece. It brought a lump to my throat.

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