Transfigure This
(after John O’Donohue)

by Will Falk

You told me to
transfigure the pain
as the unleaded liquid
remains of corpses combusted
and dragged me across
asphalt lacerations
slashed across the Earth’s skin.

I wanted to.
I sat down just now
to do exactly that.

Then I recalled
a young antelope buck
challenge a Ferrari
to a race along I-80.

As the buck flexed
his hind muscles,
the ghosts of the millions
of pronghorn antelope
that once sped across
this continent before
the mines and dynamite,
cheat grass and fracked gas,
trains, itchy trigger fingers,
and a young, insecure nation’s
dark destiny manifested
gathered in his shadow.

When the machine won again,
the young buck collapsed
in the dust and sage brush,
chest heaving, hooves twitching,
while the Ferrari pulled away
like nothing had happened,

I understood your impulse to
change pain into something else.

Here I am, trying
to transfigure all of this,
but when I recall the fierce pride
in that defeated buck’s eyes,
I know some pain
should never be transfigured.

Some pain, like the suffering
of a whole species, should be
left plain, should remain
devoid of symbol, because
some pain hurts too much
to be turned into anyone’s –
even your soul friend’s –
metaphoric coping mechanism.