The answer, my friend,
is blowing in the wind…
He wakes up in the wee small hours of the morning—
much like what Sinatra croons, anyway—
feeling so tired, as though he were a boy
who had the night before cried himself to sleep,
But he is quick to remember—Zorba redux—
like Andromache after days of grieving
to stir back from the bed, heat up the pot
& drop a teabag, The body, after all, must carry on.
Did he have to text? What if he didn’t?
At the end of the day on planet earth, which would have
been wiser? sadder?
How did he lose his cool? The mind rules
but was she the storm that blew his head off?
It was ha-ha! a no-win situation.
In the heart’s interim—that skip in the beat;
the guitar & bongo of all black sounds—
a spectral snake tears into his guts,
each bite sending him to reach for book & booze,
which resolves nothing, leaves him nothing anyway.
Is he the man in his silly parable?
When he smiled at her
playing in the garden, the young princess shrieked in fear,
scooting back into the armory, for she thought
she had seen a werewolf bare its white-hot fangs…
Struggling into the forest, the mangy peasant
would clasp his head in an act of theatrical despair,
moaning. Was he a bloodied fox? But he
would break into an idiotic smile,chuckling
as though to lick an ancient wound—
God had again pulled a fast one on him.
Time & circumstance. & the
ghosts that solidify from air. Everything comes
too early or too late. The season turns in
helter-skelter way. Is he the minotaur
in the labyrinth preparing for his death?
He is alone. Or so he thinks. But the
empirical facts of his personnel file don’t bear this out.
His friends are quick to enfold him in their arms,
swaddling him from the icy air
that embraces like a blanket of bees.
He is, after all, somewhat provided for.
He manages to eat, now & then, like a king.
His countenance bears the compassion of strangers.
On occasions, they would celebrate his highs,
pull him out of himself. Verily, we could say
he is a bearable member of the community of
kindred hearts. What is he gnashing his teeth for?
His solitude is a bohemian pose,
an existential claim that had seen better days,
a petty-b brinkmanship that has been discarded
like junk mail,
for the country is in flames,
the flags are unfurled & he must help pass
Of course, the nights have been mercilessly chilling.
But her voice, her eyes keep his memory in an iron vise.
He does not know, or pretends not to know,
how to breathe without suffering that imaginary stone
that presses on his chest. Ah, but that is bad poetry.
The heart, after all, has its own semiotics.
It rushes in where slobbering angels fear to tread.
Is it a game, after all? The cunning of the hunter,
the innocence of the prey? Is it because time
has been running out?
True, the council of elders nods,
but he has never felt like it in a long, long time.
This blast of light that pierces his ice-cold skin,
makes him move lest he freeze.
But words are cheap, so bloody cheap these days.
Like beer or gin in a two-penny store of easy loves
& drunken men.
Everything he said had already been said.
Nothing [on a metaphysical mode]
is the only signifier that signifies itself.
Going the way of Hemingway? Genes, god & nada?
Nada, nada, nada! As if the
world has been floating on nada, turning on nada—
that leaf, that stone, that beat of aging hearts,
that brush of soft cheeks, that flowering smile
That rush of young blood in virginal veins—
all turning into nada of his nada in the nada
of his nada memory.
& when everything has passed, will he still
remember her? She him? [Of course, She won’t.]
Who does not forget?
Yup, yup, everybody moves on.
(Yesterday, last I saw him, he was in pain. But
according to a news bulletin, doctors didn’t think so.
It’s all in the head, they said, the while laughing
to themselves as they issued him some prescription—
to make him ease up, feel good.
After all, in the vast panorama of human grief
his case, experts say, is a petty crime
of impossible passion & forgettable despair.)
From Voices of Violence, 1971