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
their lights have been left on
so we can see how empty are their offices
plants soon to be watered
by people they will never meet
in this towering cathedral of glass and steel
the weave of metal roof beams
mimes the reach of real branches
under which to shelter
amid the remnants of the day
the floor polisher slowly arcs his rotating brush
while the unbreakable terrazzo
echoes with high heels
in front of the white-shirted security guards
the window-washer strides by
his harness unhooked for now
from the high wire
across the marble floor
as if walking on water
lost tourists and late diners
head toward unknown reunions
amid this empire of teak desks and counters
bare walls stripped of significance
we are granted, for a brief moment,
our minor mandate
from his own blue id
in the instant that he sings out his melody
we find a bridge
a bandage for an injured ego
then a bold opening to the sun
not only for someone else
but for his own ear
beyond the usual tuning
not little birds’ partying
or musicians mistaking his tune
but from the resounding liveliness of his nature
as the notes die down a kind of coda:
the restrained plucking of violins
in the zone of avoidance
poetry is our sidereal instrument
measuring the major and minor streets
of the pinwheeling galaxy of our own city
dust clouds the milky way, starlight scatters
the view beyond our own dwarf galaxy obstructed
if we were radio waves we’d know each other completely