SIGNS

1.

Tell-tale signs affirm

a medieval execution —

“stab and gunshot wounds,

the eyes gouged out,

the hands bound

and pages of newspaper

stuffed down the throat…”

What manner of savagery is this?

Enough for Primo Levi

to claim “that this must elicit

the shame of being human…

the shame of the fact

that what should not happen

did happen…?”

Moving fingers point

at the imperial legion

that would not break free

from the miasma

of martial state…

But the centurions

wouldn’t confess to any crime

like the generals

in Kosovo & Laos, at the trial…

Who shall buy their alibi?

Succumb again

to the seduction of infamy?

You have attended their banquet

in honor of “free choice”

their falsetto voices

ringing in music-filled air?

How time will unravel

itself in Minotaur’s labyrinth —

while Theseus’s long, long rope is cut

by bloodsoaked ghosts?

2.

Tint Swe,

chief censor of Myanmar,

finally “caps his red pen,”

putting a stop

to the “government’s [examination]

of every book, every article,

each illustration, photo or poem

before printing.”

His office “feels like

a ghost town.”

Do writers feel the same way?

They bask in newfound freedom,

but are wary

some things don’t last forever…

Does the censor long secretly

for such busyness

& may wish to bounce back

in another night

of the generals?

After all, “newspaper

& magazines must still

obtain a license to publish.”

O An omen for future disaster?

3.

Stories

Susan Sontag

scholarly tells of:

Arthur Rimbaud

abandoning poetry at 17,

“making a fortune

in slave trade”

& gun running in Aden;

“Wittgenstein

as hospital orderly

to keep his mind busy;

Duchamp “turning to chess”

to “stress him out” —

all lapsing into profound

silence

like the survivors of Nazi camps

who stared

into the face of evil

& forever remained

speechless…

They who dismissed

their “achievements”

as “trifling, of no significance,”

like used tin toys,

& Ernesto Manalo,

poet who slashed his wrists

to seek meaning in the beyond,

are invisible prisoners

who walked into

the cages of silence

& forever sealed their lips

where no words fragile & uncertain

would ever escape.

Is that all that matters?

4.

The children

are gone for the break–

as if they have left

something accomplished

in the paper mill

of the academe —

where rote is the learning

of foundational routine.

O They will come back

as if burdened

by the onus of texts

that stares like a cyclops

in the face

of nada, nada, nada

in their calculated future.

Like their elders,

they will learn the lesson

much too late —

& fall by the wayside

where bones & skulls

stud whitely

the edges of the woods.

5.

A.

He looks at himself

& finds history unfolding —

A Canute who commands

the giant waves to stop

& sees people

reimagining the past

as it issued forth from his mind.

How long must the charade last?

Power binds all who watch

including the seer himself.

But there will be a time

to reinvent life

& origin of truth —

always however there will be

witnesses

to set things right

& banish all the deviltry

of sorcerers

hiding the infernal crime.

B.

He would regale

the bureaucrats

with himself

as the main hero

of his story,

this strange adventure

during the dictator’s years.

O How he seemed amused

to conduct

the game of gladiators

in his imaginary coliseum.

Nothing moves

without his knowing,

& his signature

the most prized possession

of anyone at the gate

of the forum.

He heads the fulcrum

of the time

that made the world

shift according

to his passion.

Still, in the twilight

of his career,

he plays the flute

that mystifies

the rats of Hemelin.

Why therefore

should he be cautious

to declare

the history of all

as his, his alone?

He is the witness

to it all

& no one would dare

throw a gauntlet at his

truth.

6.

There he goes again:

falling for another one

that secretly eyes him

from the evening’s side:

O will he ever learn

the lesson

to steer clear

of beautiful ghosts

who seductively haunt?

But he’s a sucker

for angels & sluts —

so there he is,

stopping to malinger

at the center of the road,

as if there is a rock

precious to behold.

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