Chalk Marks on a Dead Soul

by Max Bouillet

"A prettiness mummified by years of chalk dust."
--Richard Eder

We would take turns
counting our sins
in chalk tally marks
on the alley wall
beside her church.

It evolved into a game that would last
from cloudburst to cloudburst.
(The goal was to see
who could amass the most sins
to be washed away by God.)

So when they lift
the fingerprints
from the bruises
found on her dead soul,
it is no surprise
they are mine.

The hunt leads them
to the alley by her church
Where I kneel
with rivulets of tears
streaking my chalk-covered cheeks,
praying for rain.


Author's Note: An image for this poem can be found at Chalk Marks on a Dead Soul at Intelligent Ash.

Posted on 06/24/2005
Copyright © 2022 Max Bouillet

Member Comments on this Poem
Posted by Karl Waldbauer on 06/24/05 at 08:08 AM

Absolutely agree with Paul. This is so visual it almost is a short film already...at least in my head. Darkly refreshing read that makes me more aware that there's no time like now to make amends to those we've hurt.

Posted by Rula Shin on 06/24/05 at 04:02 PM

This is simply a wonderful piece Max, really. Your metaphors and images are flawless, the opening stanza says so much, beckons you to see where all this intentional sinning is going, I love the idea of ‘tallying’ the sins with chalk, this is an incredibly brilliant foreshadowing of the murder of “soul” to come on two levels, the chalked outline to come, and the telling stain of white upon the guilty's face. “It evolved into a game…(The goal was to see who could amass the most sins to be washed away by God.)” – it’s amazing how willing we are to tempt our own fate out of mere curiosity, how willing we are to wound ourselves in some paradoxical attempt to defy our personal definitions of higher power. “when they lift the fingerprints from the bruises found on her dead soul, it is no surprise they are mine” – yes, it’s no surprise, and here is where the mourning and remorse begins, “Where I kneel with rivulets of tears streaking my chalk-covered cheeks, praying for rain” – praying nonetheless after having acted in defiance of prayer haha! Oh how ironic is the human nature!!! Dipping our hands willingly in red paint for the sake of attaining power over the powers that be whatever they be, yet only in the wake of FEAR of consequence do we see fit to kneel once again surrendering, admitting defeat, seeing the true extent of our weakness…too often too late. This is what I saw Max, and I must say it’s rather a powerful message, dark, well written, and powerful. High marks to you. :-)

Posted by Glenn Currier on 06/25/05 at 02:15 AM

Max, this is a GREAT poem. It IS a story that could spark a novel. The iconoclastic allusion, the images of time marked by the rains, and finally the feeling of sorrow/guilt/loss all rolled into one in that last stanza, a few things that make this piece so awesome. I bow humbly in the direction of a Brotherpoetrolemodel. Thanks for this superb gift.

Posted by Christina Butcher on 06/25/05 at 08:17 AM

this poem drips with emotion, i love it. one of many of your very talented pieces.

Posted by David Hill on 06/26/05 at 01:28 AM

The last three lines are particularly potent.

Posted by Michele Schottelkorb on 06/26/05 at 07:32 PM

this hit deep in the gut... you are poet... blessings...

Posted by Ashok Sharda on 06/27/05 at 01:39 AM

This biped,the socalled human being, is a bundle of contradiction capable of killing for the sake of nothing and will give his life again for the sake of nothing.But he lives fractured, from time to time, from mood to mood, from one emotional drive to another.He will kill and repent.But what this piece of your seems to emphasize is not just this game we call life but this realization which makes us human.

Posted by Alex Smyth on 06/27/05 at 09:40 PM

Your library is a living breathing example of poetry at it's best. Exquisite imagery woven with a depth of sould rarely found. Good one, Max.

Posted by Soulo Jacob Bourgeau on 07/04/05 at 10:39 AM

This left me wanting details about the characters and questions swirling in my head, yet the piece is totally complete and self suficient. Teasingly brilliant, Sir.

Posted by Joan Serratelli on 04/20/06 at 12:19 PM

Wondefully written story- painted with such vivid images. Great write!

Posted by Bethany Lee on 05/18/06 at 11:55 PM

Your name, to me, is Brilliant Bouillet.

Posted by Cassandra Leigh on 10/20/06 at 08:57 PM

astounding. i don't think i've ever seen religious overtones used so effectively. it has a feeling of irony that i can't pinpoint, which is how it's supposed to be. i love it.

Posted by Tony Whitaker on 12/23/06 at 12:30 PM

Wow! This one goes in my Favorites folder for sure! Great imagery and what a twist.

Posted by David Garner on 01/21/08 at 05:33 PM

Just read your poem for the first time. Elegant and mysterious. Beautifully well-crafted.

Posted by Shossana Dreyfus on 03/21/10 at 08:35 AM

wow ... i think you've become my favourite writer here.

Posted by Kristina Woodhill on 10/29/13 at 02:59 PM

To my favorites, also. Really a riveting POTD!

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