Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2012 v11n1
 print version

In a City of Red Ideas

In the old days,
the fallen gods, 
retreated on the back
of the same white jackass that
they had ridden into town on.
Like Shabtai Zvi, that false Messiah.
On some manic high,
called god.
Saw god.
Was god.

Afterwards people talked, they said
idly wringing out their wash
next to the brown river,
that they all knew,
they said that the sad
donkey was the dead giveaway.
And they could tell false prophecy.
Who in the aftermath of that
would admit, “I believed, I believed”?
I wonder if that’s how we lose faith,
because in an
animal’s eyes 
all there is,
is belief
and a mammal love
of god,
and yes, he is only
a jackass, and one
among many, but there
is much to be said of him
on a spiritual level.

Now when I close my eyes I see
suburbs that I never lived in
houses with red front doors
and brass knockers
and I go inside and the rooms are
each filled with the blue lights from televisions.
This is the place where fathers
send their daughters to walk carrying
some slender volumes
barefoot in the green spring
across the quad.
And the mothers taught them how to walk
that walk and there are boys too.
yes that is: what what’s
that is what all the talk is about,
has always been about.

In all the lives I imagined myself
I find myself in the one I had
scavenging in a wide field of stubble. 
Then, there is the
one of interruption
I’m coming
Keep your pants on.
All day it has been like this,
bickering with him.
It’s been on and off for weeks.
The only thing is that
he has been dead for years
but still we bicker I have to run
everything past him, once or twice
the blue dress or the old
yellow one I wore to Esther’s wedding.

After a few years that woman
was the curator of pain
and her anger
a yellow boat hitting the rocks.
What has the world come to?
They have stuffed us so full of soy that
my bones jangle when I walk and
the fevers at night soak the sheets.
Maybe I could live on mood stabilizers?
Knowing that tremendous rush
will forever be only water.

Today I am a cripple, a hunchback
but I will know the Messiah when I see him
and he greets me when I rise to the kiss.
O this limp that I have had all my life
leaves a strange impression in the snow
after I have walked. 
Take your pick: the treacherous or the stupid.
Say something, or say nothing.
Here is a poem that ends graveside
much like all utterance
much like the last guttural drop
of spittle. 

So we get by on the
E-Z pass
and with a warlord’s greed
in a red city of ideas.  

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