Stewart Moss

For Those Whose Lives Have Seen Themselves
June 21, 2018 Moss Stewart

For Those Whose Lives Have Seen Themselves

I am returning without you from the place
we went together.
– Sezen Arseven, survivor, Club Reina, Istanbul


Welcome all who have traveled the long road
from where your deepest dreams began
in the wild ferment of sleep,
or when profoundly drunk or stoned,
and walked out
with whatever heavy burdens you carried,
your thumb outstretched and maybe
your other hand taunting death with a sign saying,
“Beirut” or “Aleppo” or “Istanbul,”
looked at the reflection of yourself
in your lover’s Ray-bans and asked
what it meant to see the world
and break the bonds that held you
to a former life, if only you could name
the thick liquid in which you’d floated,
assured by the certainty of the next day
and all the days to come.
I remember in a cheap hotel in Amsterdam
where the pipes entered and returned
through wide, rough holes in the sheetrock,
watching a couple make love in the next room,
ashamed that I denied them
their privacy, their fumbling intimacy.
Perhaps they watched us too,
as we abandoned ourselves for a few moments
above the bustling canals
and in the cracked mirror bolted to the wall
opposite our bed. Who knows
what became of them? Or any of us
who are left in crummy hotel rooms
by those we desire,
or because of bullets shattering raucous dancers
in a nightclub. Sometimes clarity
only comes with loss,
for it tightens the skin
that binds us to our own silhouettes
and makes our shadows sharper, more distinct
in the sun, or disappear forever
in the darkening, unholy cities.

As a former Executive Director of The Writer’s Center in Bethesda, Maryland, Stewart Moss helped establish creative writing programs for adult immigrants and members of the military being treated for neurological and psychological trauma. He has taught literature and creative writing in both the USA and abroad; Scotland, Afghanistan, Zimbabwe and Nepal are among the countries where he has lived and worked. Moss has essays included in Retire the Colors: Veterans & Civilians on Iraq & Afghanistan, ed. Dario DiBattista (Hudson Whitman/Excelsior College Press, 2016) and Plume Poetry, and poetry in Plume, Goss 183 and Origins Literary Review. His chapbook of poems, For Those Whose Lives Have Seen Themselves, was published in 2021 by Finishing Line Press, and his collection Arrivals & Departures: Poems will be released (also by Finishing Line Press) in 2023. Moss has been awarded an Independent Artist Grant by the Maryland States Arts Council; he has also been featured in “The Poet and the Poem” podcasts at The Library of Congress. A native of Boston, MA, he resides in Annapolis, MD.