Healing Leaves and Unimaginable Flowers

               What other indignities
must I suffer flagrantly before I find the Just 
               City, the garden I left
before I was even born? Pull up the policies, 
               quote the terms of agreement,
provide me with tables of the precise point-value 
               breakdown before I break down

               or out or up or through to
the other side of grievance because it’s not so much
               the indignities themselves
as the uncertainties regarding their relative 
               scoring: when I mispronounce
peony to rhyme with pony, stressing the long O—
               like crony, phony, stony—

               how many points do I earn?
When I ask the woman in the none-too-slimming black
               dress when she’s going to have
her baby, and she tells me four months ago, how much 
               is that worth? How much closer
am I to the long-promised prospect of healing leaves 
               and unimaginable

               flowers? I picture heaven
as a Customer Service desk where polo-shirted 
               personnel with name badges
brocaded with the swoops and lags of a strange language 
               laugh and chat without ever
answering the bright red phones that ring without ceasing, 
               and I can take to them all

               the unfulfilling moments
of my unfulfilling life—like some defective pair 
               of clunky VR goggles
weighting a white plastic bag twist-knotted at the top— 
               for a refund or exchange.
They don’t ask for a receipt. They only want to know 
               if I am ready and when
               I tell them I’ve been ready
my whole life, the phones stop ringing, the chatter snaps off,
               they stare at me with something
between sadness and bewildered ardor and wish me 
               a good day and send me back
into the world, which is just what it has always been: 
               one big, beautiful garden. 

Stephen Kampa is the author of three collections of poems: Cracks in the Invisible, Bachelor Pad, and Articulate as Rain. His work appears in The Best American Poetry. Recently, he was the writer in residence at the Clampitt House in Lenox, MA. He teaches at Flagler College.