Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2012 v11n1
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Elegy with a Darkening Trapeze Inside It

The idea turned out to be no more than a cart wheel
Stuck in mud, & unturned fields spreading to the horizon while
Two guys in a tavern went on drinking tsuica & recalling their one

Accomplishment in life—the seduction of a virgin on the blank
Pedestal of a statue where Stalin had once stood.

The State is an old man’s withered arm.


The only surviving son of Jesus Christ was Karl Marx.
You can tell by the last letter of his name,
Which has the shape & frail balance of an overturned cross

On a windswept hillside. It marked the end of things.
Of lumber that rots & falls. The czar is a shattered teacup,

The trouble with a good idea is that it has to work:

The only surviving son of Jesus Christ survives now
Mostly in English departments & untended graves.

One thing he said I still remember, a thing that’s never there
When I try to look it up, was: “Sex should be no more important . . . 
Than a glass of water.” It sounded vaguely like the kind of thing

Christ might have said if Christ had a sense of humor.
The empty bar that someone was supposed to swing to him
Did not arrive, & so his outstretched flesh itself became

A darkening trapeze. The two other acrobats were thieves.


My colleague Otto Fick, who twenty years ago
Wrote brilliant lectures on the air, sometimes
Would pause & seem to consult notes left
On a podium, & then resume. A student once
Went up after class to look at them & found
Only a blank sheet of paper. Nothing there.
“In theory, I believe in Marx. In fact, my wife
Has to go in next week for another
Biopsy. Fact is disbelief. One day it swells up
In front of you, the sky, the sunlight on everything,

Traffic, kids on surfboards waiting for the next
Big set off San Onofre. It’s all still there . . . just
There for someone else, not for you.” This is what
My friend Otto told me as we drove to work.


I worked with men in vineyards once who were paid
In wages thin as water, cash that evaporated & rose like heat.
They lived in rows of makeshift sheds the owner hauled

Into an orchard too old to bother picking anymore,
And where, at dusk, a visible rushing hunger

Raced along the limbs of the trees surrounding them.
Their kids would watch it happen until a whole tree would seem
To vanish under it. There were so many of them.

By then the rats were flying over a sickening trapeze of leaves
And the tree would darken suddenly. It would look like brown water

Rushing silently & spreading everywhere

Before it got dark anyway & the kids went in.
“There was more rats in there than there was beads on all the rosaries of the dead.
We wen’ to confession all the time then ’cause we thought we might disappear

Under them trees. There was a bruja in the camp but we dint go to her no more.
She couldn’t predict nothing. And she’d always cry when you asked her questions,”

A woman said who had stayed there for a while.

Every revolution ends, or it begins, in memory:
Someone remembering her diminishment & pain, the way
Her scuffed shoes looked in the pale light,
How she inhaled steel filings in the grinding shed
For thirty years without complaining once about it,
How she might have done things differently. But didn’t.
How it is too late to change things now. How it isn’t.  

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