Necklace of Cannonballs

Martin Arnold

And just like that it hits you—
All the promises you’ve dodged
Like bicycles on a sidewalk
By stepping out into traffic,

The friends you’ve hugged to stick
Kick-me signs to their backs,

The lies you’ve pirated because you thought
That’s exactly what
A stranger wants to hear

But you’re a lousy judge of character
And you insult them even trying.

Your failures sail home like a burning armada
From the wars your mouth has launched

And lately you’ve practiced a silent nod
Not overly sycophantic, not too obsequious,

And do it not to seem intelligent,
You don’t, you do it
To delay as long as possible
The fact you’ll let them down some day.

And is it so wrong to scuttle
The crew of your beliefs
To soothe that choppy as-far-as-the-eye-can-see
Loneliness inside?

You’ve failed to find the distant lands
Of your ambitions,
You’ve failed to make a difference in the world,
 
And you marvel at the surf’s
Unrelenting mercy
As it pulls the wreckage in
And churns it
Into un-sailable splinters.
© 2007 University of North Carolina Greensboro
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MARTIN ARNOLD has moved back to his home state of New Mexico after a stint teaching literature at American University. His poetry has appeared in a number of journals, including Crazyhorse, Mississippi Review, and Southern Poetry Review.