For C.K. Williams
Reading the prose of young media scribes, absorbed, as they are,
with sex and money, and the need for status, even among orgiasts,
I pause. How they claw, struggling for cabs, cars with bars, and the
nod from Cerberus at the door of the club, as if from him,
his acceptance, could come entrée to it all, the whole nine circles of desire.
But Buddha was right, and it makes for lousy verse, the cascade to the fallen
from fulfilled. The rituals are old, and the same rachitic claw
reaches over us all. And so, torn, we tear, primordial as the air.
We live in parts. The rich ones know. Their eyes caress metals,
held tightly to the chest, played closely to the vest, thrown stingily
among the just-good-folks. You won’t find the address of an arms factory anywhere.
We don’t know. An igniter built in Chappaqua, a pull-pin glazed in Maine,
in Idaho a shell. We need arms, military muscle, American dough.
Watch it blow.
Skeleton, skeleton, step on a crack,
live grenade payback, Jack Iraq.
Shrapnel tears run moist and red.
There, there, there, there (he was six)
there, there, there, there (she has no hand)
there, there, there (his spine is torn)
there, there, there (her head is gone).
A small time to be alive. A very small time to be alive, short enough
to pretend we’ve done no harm. Thanatos is a blind-man’s bluff,
an ignoramus with a stake, a what-were-we-thinking?, a mistake.
How did we not know there was really no other? How could we, eyes
and legs, mouths and heart, all the same, damn it, same, how could
we see anything else but we? No fires or fall, just beloved all?
Maybe as the last breath—will we know it as last?— as the last breath
goes, we—will we know any we?—we might feel another’s dying breath
that we might know someone else’s as we know our own death.
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