What Would Sri Krishna and Walt Whitman Do?

by Mark Chmiel

Dear Srimatiji
My heart aches

Reading the last chapter
of Dear Layla

You are Layla
Yet you’re as far away

For practical purposes
As the Gaza Strip

You are a psychiatrist
You are a resident

You are in Georgetown
You work too many hours

How shall we stick by each other
As long as we live in different cities?

Do you still
Give me your love

Eleven years later
Do you think of me

How we were in 2006
In Plainfield

How we were in 2011
On South Grand

How we might be this fall
in the nation’s capital

Will you summon me
As the young

So often summon the old
Will you flash me your fire

I saw it
When we first met

I put our first face to face
from SLU November 2004

in a chapter called
“The Next Step (Faces/3)”

“Her name was Tanya Chatterjee
Her face was fill of sri”

I may have a day
A week a month

A year or ten left
Same for you

Who can predict our span
No one, not even Avalokitesvara

I wrote a book
for you

I wrote a book
About you

But I must live out
The book’s imperatives

“Habibi, we have another day
Let’s not waste it”

So I resolve to resume
Pestering you

Starting
with this!

Writing you letters
Sending you postcards

Texting 21 syllables
Amazon-ing books

To your front door
That one year

You’ll have time
To read and savor

Or fling across the room
Your indignation triggered

Let the money remain unearned
Let the university stand

Mind not the cry of professional
Let the lawyers yammer on

You’ll say: “Come to DC
Join me in the protest

You remember the Gospel
according to Mev?”

And I will walk with you
To and in hell

So what, all the colliding coarse inner voices:
“Play it safe”

“Be reasonable”
“Think twice about it”

Your beloved sister may blurt out
“You’re so impulsive!!!!”

But yours is the impulse
Toward justice

The impulse
That Gandhi maximized along the lines

Let the poorest person you know
Be the God you worship

(Speaking of God
In our class 11 years ago

You told us—
You’re such a traditional Hindu mystic—

“I look at each of you
And see God”)

The last voice mail you left
Stirred me to the depths

You were closer to me then
Than my jugular vein

This long outpouring
In a summer writing class

15 minutes ago
Of re-membering you to me

All the love
You’ve directed to me

Startles me
Goosebumps me

Let us stick by each other
As long as we live

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