IN THE BREACH

There is little you can do about it,
less that you want to do,
although they are not pleased
with your decision.
Remind them that they
are the ones that left the decision
to you, mostly in the hope you
would do what they hoped, taking them
off the hook, but they now realize
they have been hoist
with their own petard
and the walls, gates they wanted
breached still stand
with you on the sideline
watching their farce unfettered.
They will not ask again
and you laugh, for if they did it
you would give it a try
just to see the look on their faces.

CUBIC

In the center of every city
there ought to be a park,
an expanse of green, trees
older than the first European to arrive,
so old they need not feign indifference
to the humans who have invaded
and refused to leave despite the mother (nature)’s
request that they do so immediately.
Some cities comply, but only partially
for they place the parks on the periphery
and save their core for the tall buildings,
stacked cubes chock-full of small cubes,
little boxes and to which people go each day
before returning to their own boxes, large
enough and sometimes ghastly large
that surround the city. This is where
the city knows the Park should be, and if people
don’t like it, the city doesn’t really care.

FOR YOUR OWN GOOD

We kept them together to protect them,
he said, though we did make the men
wear the red And yellow badge.
You must understand, this was for their good.
We didn’t want them corrupted
by our Catholicism, so we had to ensure
we would not mingle with and debase them.
There were our bankers, without them
the King would’ve made tax demands on us
and a kingdom cannot long survive
on the broken backs and empty pockets of its people.
And anyway, they knew they need not comply,
after all what’s a pound of silver fine to a Jew.

PLATFORM

They said it was essential
for a writer to have a substantial platform,
one built high enough to be easily seen
by those passersby who might just give
a passing glance, even if it was a typo
landed them here, updated, regularly
changing with time, tide, and fashion
always ready, always accommodating.
It must be a composite, the better
to handle storms, ill winds lacking
the ennui of winter, curse of summer.
It was no small task to build,
everyone offered plans, templates,
none ever quite right, but he built it,
and when the time came, like most
writers he knew, it would suffice
where they put the noose around his neck
and hung him by his words, his
truth that they came to hate.

NOUS SOMMES ICI

The question, of course, is which
is Frankenstein, which his monster
a chicken and egg problem
that invites debate, denies solution.
They say, of course, it is you –
We sent you Lafayette, never assuming
quelle catastrophe would grow from our gift.
Freedom doesn’t make you a God
but somehow you never learned that
too busy writing rules for the rest of us to ignore.
Quite to the contrary, we say,
we sacrifice mightily to redeem you,
buried our own dreams to build
a foundation for yours, twice, and you
repay us not with the gratitude
we so deeply deserve from you,
but with derision, and that, only
if you are feeling beneficent. You are
the epitome of arrogance we each say
and we know that it is the glue that binds us.

TONGUES

Ninety-six years ago today
Women gained the right to vote.
It would be another five
before those who preceded
the lot of us were blessed with citizenship,
the least we could offer, after
our prior gifts of disease,
alcoholism and down sizing.
Who, our forebears must have imagined,
wouldn’t want to live somewhere
they had a reservation in their name
we had given them, their land
taken with their language,
no longer useful in our shared world.
The King of France allowed
only the Jews to be moneylenders,
reserved space in each town for us as well,
for which we are still told
we should be thankful, but
you have no idea how to say so in Navajo.

BOOTCAMP

The butterflies came in the night
floating through the barracks window,
mainly monarchs, orange and black
but the occasional yellow, with
more gossamer wings, and the odd white
with small green patches, one to a wing.

There is a corner in my footlocker
that is mine, where I can hide
the tattered book of poems.
A true poet is unafraid to write
an ode in blood, if the situation requires
drawn from her vein
by a needle or the baton
of the security force.

In the river downtown the cup
floats along, carried on the current
into which I cast my dreams
when they no longer serve any purpose.
I can easily aim the rifle
at the silhouette and ease back
on the trigger, but would the child’s skull
explode with the impact of the round
or merely cave inward, collapsing?

I can look into the mirror
in the morning, before first light
and see the shine on my head.
The cancer is advancing, growing
until I no longer have control
and merely respond to its commands
in carefully spit-shined boots
as though anyone would give a damn
waist deep in the fetid water
of the rice paddies.

The heat is unbearable
and you sweat at the thought of motion.
You, forced march from your dreams,
and the butterflies disappear
into the exhausting night.


First Appeared in Blind Man’s Rainbow, Vol. 4, No. 3, February-March, 1993.