the essence of existence

the essence of existence
poem by ayvan saila

stillness gives birth to chaos 
between life and death we yearn 
to hear nothing full of emptiness

broken bodies sacrifice 
precious idols of the mind 
to touch something within everything

devoted lovers inhale 
fear and fantasy burning 
to know that truth permeates fiction

and when our ears cannot see 
the essence of existence 
to embrace peace wafting through nightmares

merge into stillness once more

This poem is, in part, a play with syllables. The rhythm is: 7, 7, 9 / 7, 7, 9 / 7, 7, 9 / 7, 7, 9 / 7. However, after posting to my website I realized it was more interesting to include the title and my name as a subtitle as part of the pattern. This makes sense, the creation of the poem begins with the title, with 7 syllables. This ends with 7 syllables, this feels right, like creation has already begun again. So, including the title the pattern is: 7, 7 / 7, 7, 9 / 7, 7, 9 / 7, 7, 9 / 7, 7, 9 / 7.
I did not begin the poem with any intention of playing with syllables. I almost hacked away at the finished product to create several Haiku poems instead, but, fortunately, sudden problems with internet connectivity discouraged me from pursuing that.
I prefer for the format of the words and language of the poem stay as I wrote them, so I uploaded a photo of the poem instead. For accessibility I’ve written the poem in the ‘alt text’ option for the photo.

Covid Confrontations

“Don’t be mad at me, I just didn’t know. I haven’t been here since March.” the customer raised her voice through a decorative brown and orange striped cloth face-mask.

“Well if you don’t know, you don’t know,” I mumbled.

I did not believe she didn’t know. “Just another white lady who thinks the rules don’t apply to her.” I thought. “I’m ready if she pulls some Karen shit, though. We won’t tolerate that here.” I glanced over my shoulder to make sure that my co-workers were around to back me up if necessary. 

As I scanned the groceries and tossed them back into the cart, I continued to complain to myself, “She thought I was going to take the groceries out of her bag. Ha! Why didn’t she just use a cart like everyone else? I should have told her to go get the cart for herself. She better not make a scene.” I sucked my teeth and probably rolled my eyes a little.

“What’s wrong now?” She asked, unexpectedly.

“The other cashiers are not here now, we aren’t busy now, that’s why they left. But they were here a few minutes ago.” I rambled on a bit, not telling her what I really felt.

I did not tell her that I was terrified that she would start throwing shit and calling me names and blaming me for all the problems with the world. I did not tell her that she was standing too damn close to me when she was belligerently trying to bag the groceries after I told her that she could not do that here.

“I still don’t understand exactly,” she interrupted my silent reel. “Where am I supposed to bag the groceries?”

“In the parking garage,” I replied incredulously. Didn’t she see that on her way in?

“Oh, how strange,” she replied. After a moment, she simply said, “Ok.”

I felt relieved, she was not going to make a scene. Soon she would leave and I could just forget about the whole incident.

“You accept SNAP here, right?” She asked.

“What?” I asked. I thought I heard correctly, but the masks muffle the words sometimes.

She showed me the food stamp card and asked again.

“Yes,” I replied, a bit stunned. I realized that my story about her was at least partially shattered. She wasn’t just trying to get special treatment. She did not know that the store policies had changed. I wondered whether this was the first time she’d been able to buy groceries since March.

I checked over my shoulder to make sure there were other cashiers available, but this time for a different reason, “Follow me,” I said sympathetically, “I’ll show you where you can bag your groceries.”