blackbird online journal spring 2002 vol.1 no. 1



Self-Portrait in the New World Order

You're walking down the street alone, absorbed
in the anticipation of a lunchtime salad
with that crusty olive bread you like so much,
and suddenly you're marching in formation
in a crowd, it's called a regiment.
You seem to be a soldier this time, you learn
to be at war. You're never really in danger
because you know you can't die
in your dreams, but sometimes
you wonder who told you that and whether
they could be trusted. The sidewalk is split
and uneven because of the shrapnel
and the artillery shells; yesterday
you didn't know the definition of artillery,
but today you know how to use it, all kinds
of field ordnance. "Ordnance" is a word
you'd never heard before. Every time
there's so much to notice, so much
to remember and write down. Here's
a little notebook with rubbed-down corners
for your back pocket. It's the little things
that distinguish one war from another,
tonight your shoes are black standard issue
marching boots that lace half-way up
your calves, whereas the other night
you had no shoes, or the shoes you'd lost
were beige bedroom slippers whose plush
offered no protection from the slush and rain
you trudged through. The subway crash
distracted you from that, now
you're climbing over the wreckage
to the next sheltered position, air thick
with morning mist (you're shivering), smoke
and a haze of acrid dust, it burns your lungs.
You're clambering through accordioned
cars, where are those twisted rails
that won't carry any passengers taking you? 

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