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The Final Question

Suffering is a foretaste of my mortality.
And not only mine, but the mortality
Of everything as far as I can see. 
A bittersweet reminder that
Nothing endures. Things fall apart. 
People go away. Circumstances change.
There’s always a last sip, 
A last bite, a last kiss. 
I have nothing here that cannot be taken
By mighty hands of happenstances. 

My only defense against this
Would be to love 
Nothing at all. 

Barring that miserable existence, 
Death and suffering and loss
Have leverage on me
And I can be Gotten To. 

Suffering is the crowbar
Leveraged against 
The weight of all that I love.  

A billy stick whose weight
Is directly proportionate 
To the size of my affections. 

Sometimes I look at my daughter, 
And it scares me how much I love her. 
This is why. 

To love is the greatest risk of all.
And to love not, even more so.  

And the status quo
Is thin ice upon which I stride.
Walk long enough, and the ice
Looks forever wide. 
Feels a hundred miles thick. 
Every step tricks me deeper
Into sleep, into belief, 
That the ice will never split. 

But one day, it will crack and moan. 
And beneath? The black unknown, 
Waiting like a mouth. 
An ice cold sea of suffering
To swallow me back, whole. 
And when the ice breaks
I descend into darkness, 
Screams becoming
Bubbles becoming

Pain like a black beast upon me, 
Tearing me in its clutches,
And I am not strong enough
To cast him off from me. 
I cannot bear him another moment, 
And yet my only escape is at his pleasure. 
He tears me limb from limb
While I can only watch
And be torn. 

And in suffering, the heart is reduced 
To honesty. It begs with wretched tears 
For that which cannot be taken.  

Suffering reveals my thirst
For eternity. Pain rips open my chest
To reveal the heart’s cry for God.
Perhaps I didn’t even know
It was there. I am laid bare, with suffering
Like a blacklight on my skin revealing
iridescent purple tattoos in invisible ink: 

The names of God from head to toe, 
Each with a question mark of longing, 
A thousand tiny prayers etched in skin. 

Jehovah Shammah? Lord, are you there?
Jehovah Jireh? Lord, will you provide?
Jehovah-Raah? Lord, are you my shepherd?
Jehovah Rapha? Lord, will you heal me?

Suffering makes the godless into beggars for mercy, 
Sinners into warriors of prayer and pleading. 

Suffering tears back the rags of years 
To expose the wound, 
Red and raw, the hole, 

Every breath is a countdown 
To final darkness, Sheol, 
And I am hemorrhaging time
And the only cure is eternity. 

Are you there God? Have you heard me? 
Is there a treasure that cannot be purged from me? 

The gift of suffering
Fits our lips with a language
That only the wounded 
Can articulate. 

We are reduced
To honesty. Pretence is for those
Who are not gut shot 
Lying on the street.   

We are fractions reduced
To our lowest terms
Through the sharp-edged
Mathematics of pain. 

Solved for X, where X is a single 
Echoing question, reverberating through our 
Shattered ribs:

My God? 

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