More or Less
Christopher Howell

I think of the red umbrella
of the last god
hoping for rain
or fire or a see-through blouse
drifting in the moonlit trees.
I think of him filing his nails
with a miniature violin, its music
a scratch in the dark ice
of midnight cities
heaving in their wired sleep
and keeping up the payments.
I think of prayer and sacrifice
leaking like fireflies from his hair,
from the brittle ends
of his wings, if he has them, if he hasn’t
pawned them feather by feather
like an echo eaten by the stones
or a promise lost in space.
Out of candles and out of luck,
I think he wonders
if this is already a kind of afterlife,
what’s after that?  Where
do the dead gods go
with their loneliness?
Would it help to be a woman
or a song?        
I imagine useless juju flitting around him
like a whirlwind of confused birds
left out of the migration. 
Surely, at last, he embraces
his empty sleeves and lets go,
as the Buddha must have, knowing that
even gods are only what they are
and that there is always more or less nothing
but to be
and begin again.

Originally appeared in Gettysburg Review

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