Mrithi was the silverback
in “Gorillas in the Mist,”
family patriarch, shot in 1993
by someone in the dark before
the dawn. He dragged his wounded
body more than six feet before collapse
and death. It’s always darkest just
before the dawn, I’ve read someplace.
When I am in my darkest hour it’s this refrain
that keeps me from succumbing to despair,
from slicing wrists with razor blades left over
by my adolescent daughter, from drinking
tea with atropine, or laying on the frozen ground
to sleep, perchance to dream. I’ve walked
the forest just before the dawn, profoundly
silent. Night’s creatures have retired
and morning’s chatter has not yet
begun. Throughout this planet I inhabit
humanoid predators attack just before
dawn. Blietzkrieg. Sexual abuse. The element
of planned surprise while others sleep.
Sleep that may knit that raveled sleeve
of care, the sleep that other predators
forbid their victims in the camps
set up by satraps under placid flags.
Whenever I can’t sleep I think of death.
Though sleep resembles death, oblivion,
dark indifference, there is an element
of wonder, unless a nightmare looms
out of the dessicated past. Huge hands
reach out to touch, a leering mouth
spits flame and bile and death. Always,
before, during and after there is this specter,
death, before the dawn, in darkness and in light.
Death hidden in the bottom drawer,
under the socks and half-slips.
Death in between the packets of fresh yeast-
this morning while I kneaded pizza dough
I choked and coughed and couldn’t catch
my breath. It ended, I am here, I write,
but oh there was a moment when I felt
that icy tongue upon my lungs and spine.
It’s always darkest just before the dawn.
I wait for dawn.