down below in the swamp
far from the clouds’ reflection in the lake
without the aid of sun or any medicine
far even from the pale light of stars
I am still agile and in good spirits
born with the map of the city on my hand
with the animus of silicon in my veins
the untraceable guile of the solitary
my morbid short-sightedness will guide you
let my air of superiority fill your lungs
drink in the forty-proof liquor of divinity
the brain-fire that warms this dreary bog
my twitchy nerves and hyper vigilance
have burned away the flesh
I’m one of the happy and vigorous ones
with luminous skin and handy serums
I don’t cheer for anyone or any team
the sky in the morning is my obsession
what will be your understanding
when the language of flowers is silent?
Raise high the roof beam carpenters
Open wide the city gates
Let those once turned away now enter
Welcome the ones who are seeking shelter
Who has the right to sanctuary?
Who is pure enough to stand in a holy place?
Who is gifted enough to climb a sacred mountain?
Nobody owns the earth
The earth takes care of us
We must also be caretakers
We all rose out of a distant sea
That ancient ocean can drown us again
The worker rejected by the builder
Is now the city’s architect
Children found alive in the camps
Are now the peacemakers
You who turn your eyes to worthless things
You can not see what is beautiful
But those who do not swear to a lie
They will witness the truth
not merely words for discord
what makes the other rich
the good old days again
in debt til we die
kicked out of paradise
immersed in hard labour
not glib and not sentimental
daring not to encrypt ourselves
such underwhelming bits of flesh
with only a candle wick to light the way
we’ve instigated nothing new
no creation to unveil
no wedding glass to break
we bend our shaven heads
toward the night
without words of angst or anger
an I who speaks, an I who stands
despite all the dark thoughts
We make him famous, with our busy mouths,
this man who is more servant than bruised leader,
petrified, tangled in his own lines,
leaving the reporters cooling their heels.
As for me, my lips won’t be sealed in service
to his fear, or some ancient civic deference.
Yet my mouth goes dry hearing his triumphalist clichés;
invited to laugh like a child at his stale put-downs.
He has replaced himself with an empire of followers:
the morose, the sunny, the shy, the stalled.
I become, without agreement, his private doctor;
treating this naked man, stuffed full of doubt,
reduced to the remnants of a public self,
timid and free, fragile and powerful.
We have become the henchmen to his emotions,
swinging daily from impotent anger to gleeful gloating.
Then, he was in fame’s sweet mosh pit;
soon he will languish, not knowing where to turn.
Notoriety gives him the kiss of life and we cringe.
Then, the country was glued to his side and he gushed;
now, I close my eyes, cold to the warm glow of the TV.
When I open them again, it’s the same old show:
celebrity coat-tails, Jesus moments, power-brokers.
We know he makes provision for torture.
His trembling effusion is the mannerism of a squirrel
who renders the air with his pitiful cry.
What will he learn, caught in his own circle of fire,
when only the winter wind can keep him from falling.
It’s what you’d do, tempt fate to console her
Except you’re busted, her hope’s crushed
Caught without the elixir of money
Both marching on into the dark
We persist in eating and sleeping
While rulers write off our identities
Invest in our bad luck, our family failures
Trading inside on what’s beyond the dark horizon
Nightmares of mafia capos and national security
Making the bed in which we all sleep naked
No angels hold us in their hypnotic grip
We work for gods of celebrity and greed
Who make public service into the great unknown
While they empty out our wallets into what they own
the summer pond is mystical, in winter not merely stone
when light slants in a certain way, at a particular time
on a particular day, then something happens:
an uncertainty wilder than one imagined
the ambiguous pattern of Escher’s tessellated sky
shifting, translating, turning about an axis
he researches his poems by reading the daily news
his perceptual art proudly insincere in its categories of
simulated poetic thinking
one more mark in an accumulation of marks
every line splitting a singularity into a plurality
the beautiful made resistant
the frame changes the photograph
water flowing through the city now a lament
what was once tender now impossible to look upon