Sunday, January 25, 2009

Late Night Fast Food

No one cares, J.J., what you wrote, what you said
about chains and birth and freedom

Joe Hill says, then claws
two french fries into the catsup,
holds them to his mouth,
chews fast at first, then slow.

Jean Jacques rather likes the idea
of straws -- a plastic straw -- and a cup
of diet cola.

I feel so proud, but so
Jean Jacques says.

They bask in the cold fast-food lighting.

Jean Jacques doesn’t know guillotines.

Neither does Joe Hill, although
he knows firing squads, clubs,
some lynchings, quite.

Any word comes from anybody’s mouth
has a spit of truth in it
says Joe Hill. But
when a crowd of company goons
comes at you bats wooshing
you don’t have time to split true

from false.

Rousseau slurps

innocently from the bottom
of his cup. Then: a ridiculous and shame-
full belch. But for the midnight crew
and some drive-ups outside, they are alone.
Red chairs, yellow tables. How

can color be so bright, yet so unclean?

I wrote my life, says Jean Jacques. I
wrote my father, my mother, my mistress,
my dead children – and I was a great man.

I wrote my life says Joe Hill in hope,
in tenements and strikes, railway cars
and songs remembered and forgotten.

I wrote my song in blood,

and I never tried to be a great man.

Joe and Jacques could not hear the dog outside
in the distance: Woof. Silence. Then again twice:
Woof, Woof. Silence again, for the night.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Difficult Snow

I am walking in difficult snow,
my boots gnawing the white

ground, and everything I know
is here. The alders, shivering,

are here, and the memory of devil's
club stinging last summer

is here. I am alone,
but Joseph Stalin is talking to me.

He is saying, "Why sad?"
and I tell him: I am

trying to write a good poem
about terrible things,

and I can't seem to find
a place in the language.

And Joseph Stalin laughs,
wraps the wool-clad arm around

my shoulder, and says,
"Ahhh, David, why make things

so difficult. All I have to do is speak,
and twenty thousand people

become my imagination,
and I don't see them any more."

The alders shiver;
the trail disappears.

I am walking in difficult snow
and I am alone,

but everything I know is here.