But that’s not the worst of it.
In Lincoln Park
the orcas break
the surface of
the Sound and I
sit down because
I know the look
on the face of
that sky spilling
slyly out from
It will pour stories into the forest.
But it will tell
them the way you
tell stories to
a baby or a headstone:
mostly to itself.
They say in the aftermath
the evil’s come out
but the evil out there
lives in their mouths.
So it’s something to look around
face to face, hue to hue
listen to someone being accused
the opposite’s true.
I think you dig me, Mr. Hughes
And when you said you -
a Kentuckian -
were brothers with an African
that was fine
and I mean that the good way you would mean it
back in your place and time,
not sarcastic like we do in mine.
But I wondered (this one's harder
could you have reached your other brotherhand
to secure a little kinship
with a white man?
Talk about fine!
The insides of things
is all I gets to see:
the oven and
the wash machine
but insides people
is too much mama
too much for me.
An angled Arab in a jellaba
as long as the Berber sun and with
tea-stained teeth the color of burnt sand,
stands unlooked at by foreign shoppers
because they all know that eye contact
is a contract that even a shy smile
cannot unbind. They see rugs, cheap jewelry.
The Arab tells a bowl of fish heads
here are more tourists. Another man
pulls a palm frond as bent as his back
over meat scraps, breadcrumbs, and poverty,
sweeping the King’s official decrees
and doubts of his Mohammedan descent
secretly beneath the dusty stones in the souk.
He stands and says bonjour to the kids
(the first guess is always for the French)
But the Americans say assalam
and the students and the Arab find
a few forgotten teeth to frame their
halfshared tongue. They eat the shopkeeper’s
small deceit in the heat of Moorish June.
The price of a dented teapot comes down quickly.
A cat mews and woos the noon-hot bowl
of fish heads but is sent running and spits
its hisses at a moped whose engine
ascends to match the unseen muezzin –
his patient call having made its pact with
the long-gowned crowd, reaching unlikely speeds
beneath thin streets and stubborn burqas.
Honey drips long, making bees too drunk to fly.
Under the new moon of Al-Andalus
white women weigh the lure of the beach
against what risk they know exists and try
not to be fooled by trust earned in the sun.
A dutiful and deep-eyed olive ibn
is scraping the caramel crust from abu’s table,
closing shop in time for one more prayer.
You can read the cold
in the austerity of porchlights
and the white soul of maple bark
that makes a shy shiver
when it guesses which star
might love it back.
But I am all halogen high beams
in this poor morning.
The final bone of an unwelcome skeleton
that won’t leave its ghost alone.
And here in the city –
with none of the long-sung
undone thunder of somewhere
less given to the living –
I am stung by lone red lights
and the odd mid-block walker
made bold by the madness
of his addictions.
He moves on.
I do all the stopping.
God has taken from us the sun,
which loving was too much like firefly July,
watching our brother kiss the girl
we were too little to love
with cloying loyalty anyway.
A name in a notebook
and the little electric leavings
of her path across our sky.
But must we just go sunless sad,
wearing moods like wet vestments
at a mirthless service?
We kick wet leaves
on the cooling coals of long November
and hoist such a hard, proud December
that our summerlost girl
- hand still in rival’s hand -
turns in a wistful flourish
to look back once upon us
and wish that she
were half so free
On being careful what you wish for.
In a year that started with three months of march
the gods of the globe met a girl on a Hill,
fit with ambition and requests for the rights
of all of the people to be equally filled.
Great Zeus consulted the God of Abraham
and Mohammed added a surah or two.
Buddha nodded his silent approval
and Brahma saw it the right thing to do.
The wish was granted, her prayers were answered
and equality had been wholly ordained.
But the protester gathered her high-lettered signs
and marched, in her hat, right back out again.
Zeus looked at God and said “What’s this about?”
while angry Mohammed drew out his blade.
Buddha sat down and Om’d ‘til he shook,
Brahma wondered what mistake they had made.
The young woman said you’ve all done so well
in answering my prayers and granting my wish.
but by making my purpose so neatly complete
you’ve presented my hunger a cold, empty dish.
They watched her smartly set out for the heart
of the love that only they could create.
With a burgeoning army she chanted and marched
‘til she raised a new devil from an angelic state.
So Zeus and the God of Abraham shrugged.
Mohammed’s scimitar furrowed the dirt.
Buddha looked to have tuned it all out,
and Brahma just picked at a stain on his shirt.