Jim Gourley
Descent From Heaven

A scab-faced guy
on a motorcycle
stops dead beside me
and turns off the key,
his split, swollen lips, the steady
lost stare says maybe this time
it's it –
this here
this now
beside this stupa.
Sometimes it happens
this way.

So close we are I can smell
the smoke of dung fires
and cigarettes, the thick stink
of one, then the other.
His right hand still on the throttle
is thick knuckled and bruised from battles,
and I think of Agamemnon arriving
at what he thinks of as home –
maybe it was his brother
or the wife that set the sails,
but it was all so long ago
he's not quite sure anymore.

So on this windless afternoon
beside the mud-walled temple
he decides it's not worth telling
or staying any longer
and turns finally the key, kicking
the cycle into life,
and for a reason or not
he spares me.