The Long Sorrow by Martin Willitts Jr

The Long Sorrow

The unmoving clouds hang empty in the pale skies.
The yawning stilled branches of trees
lost their leaves too soon,
waving like a person surrendering
with hands becoming white flags.
It is already way too soon.
The clock groans at each passing.
The world departs in fits and starts, unraveling
life’s stitching. God made a thumbprint lake
and now, the water dwindles, gasping for breath.
Is it too much too say
we have spoiled and rotted this earth?
Voices grind like ax blades on a sharpening tool.
Ask the turkey buzzards circling.
Ask the old woman sobbing in the kitchen,
worrying her floors to the bone.
Ask the clouds rung dry. No wind for miles.
A great disturbance looms
with the giant scolding finger.
A desperate man cranks up a bucket from a well,
and inside floats empty excuses.
The trees are dying,
their branches are fingers ripping the sky open
hoping to find water.
The crazed birds do not know where to land,
where it might be safe, realizing,
maybe, all the safe places are decimated.
Tell the river trying to run away, not to flee.
Tell the girl with parched, cracked lips.
Tell the boy plowing beyond hope.
Tell the ships where all the water went.
How can I find solace in this sight,
this failure brought upon us
by many uncaring hands?
Hands with sawdust from trying to repair,
throw penny nails into the sky.
Today, the soil turns loosely from my hands,
grain of dust. I heard its song of sadness.
This song is the long sorrow
of animals lurking towards extinction.
How can I find solace in this sight?
The eyes of owls observe and inquire.
Where do I begin to repair when I am so small?
Problems shadow the land
like crows eating plants until nothing remains.
Many hands carry the weight of excuses.
No one can lift them, nor ignore them,
nor resolve them. Small steps across
the floor never covers much ground.
Each shifting piece of dirt turning the dust
shouts for me to do whatever I can.
Too much shouting,
and the simple voice cannot be heard.
Shoes leave us behind.
Soldiers salute flags with no purpose,
although leaders promise changes.
Those promises are as numerous
and as useless as the soil turning to dust.
A monstrous glow nearing
cannot be normal. When I say this,
My hands turn into dust.
I wish that was not true,
but my wishes are dust, too.
The ground knows my wishes
will not repair the damages of disrepair.
In my heart, a sad violin
forgets music. Its strings are strangled.
A dry throat cannot sing.
A bird without music flies into my face.
It writes questions on my face.
My face without reason.
My face with a thousand useless pacing.
My mouth full of dust when I try to speak.
Tell the abandoned why they are forgotten.
I can’t.
Dear monster, someone has fed you.


Martin Willitts Jr is an editor of Comstock Review. He won 2014 Dylan Thomas International Poetry Contest; Stephen A. DiBiase Poetry Prize, 2018; Editor’s Choice, Rattle Ekphrastic Challenge, December, 2020; 17th Annual Sejong Writing Competition, 2022. His 21 full-length collections include the Blue Light Award 2019, “The Temporary World”. His recent books are “Harvest Time” (Deerbrook Editions, 2021); “All Wars Are the Same War” (FutureCycle Press, 2022); “Not Only the Extraordinary are Exiting the Dream World (Flowstone Press, 2022); “Ethereal Flowers” (Shanti Press, 2023); and “Rain Followed Me Home” (Glass Lyre Press, 2023).