86: coma, canto 29

canto 29

yes, sometimes I forget
which hand to use:
the left or the right.

the way my mother tells the story:
she asked him to take down
some limbs with the efficient
eyes of the surgeon,
a hundred times in a life
time of cutting,
assistance, clearing,
the everyday
weed piles, holes,
clutter making,
clutter mending,
the tunneling of worms,
ants rising and saying, hey,

when he forgot
just for a moment
how to stop the saw
and just for a brief moment,
a flash,
the risk of the future riskless,
ordinary,
his mind told him to use
logic,
that the hand is good
for stopping things,
as if it were everyday,
the way it was always done,
(it’s true I once
dropped a coffee cup
because I remembered
I was right handed)
and in the instance after,
the engine smoking on the grass,
the question should not have
should not have should not have
becomes a chant, repeated,
and for a moment nothing moves

the way my mother tells it:
I saw him do it
and all I could do was watch.
It was like looking into the bush
and seeing a hippo
staring back at you
but it has four eyes
not just two.

she said.

85: coma, interlude 17

interlude

i told her I didn’t eat the roses;
I told her I didn’t eat the coffee;
I told her I didn’t eat the cat;
I told her I didn’t eat the tires off the car

but nevertheless, the woman
with the tulip cup had soft lips;

soft lips;

I remember them,
driving
Interstate 10,
but this is the future;

i blink.
Thor coughs.
It could be any time.

he sees me
wants something
I could never convey–

i wave at the confectioner
and his chocolates
on the corner;

saying, give me something for Imelda,
who loves me

and expects me
in the desert
at the doorstep
of a white house,

and I remember them,
driving
Eye 10,
but this is the future;

soft lips;
soft words.
We said: when will the next war come?

and I remember them,
driving;

and, opening the door,
the woman with the tulip cup,
opening, with the soft lips,

but, that’s the future . . .

84: coma, interlude 16

interlude

my father once told me
a story about a choreographer,
a man who made his life by inventing
masks, who
never,
he said, wore
his own face
but other faces
contriving smiles
and frowns
for whatever occasion

when he looked he saw
claws,
gorilla,
bird hands,

saying: my hands
are not my hands,
other hands they are;
and this face, it’s not my face
but a green mask, Monday,
Sunday, a yellow mask,
and see my parrot eyes
blinking, blinking
in the dark
like moons
lit behind by urges
to be other men or women
of fictional origin.

and when he addressed
mirrors, surprised
by the face that addressed him back,
he called himself
by different names
so many ways and lengths
and languages
that at a party he couldn’t remember
how to respond
and walked away
and tossed himself into the garden
from floor thirty.

and became no one
in particular,
a body,
a mash,
a dead thing
put back together
on a table
and then into a bag
then into the ground
to be forgotten.

but that’s impossible, I said,
how could that be,
as we’re always ourselves,
but my father remained quiet
and when I looked at him
he was examining his hands,
hands that had drilled into skulls,
hands that had dripped blood,
hands that had brought
real human beings back
from the sleep of anesthesia
and certain disaster.

he flexed them into claws,
opened them, made fists.
Then he looked
at me and said:
he was a patient of mine.
It’s not impossible.

83: coma, canto 28

canto 28

we are geographic beings,
I told Henry and Imelda,
as I pressed keys
for this or that stock,
read for this or that news
on this or that market,
the red lines and the blue lines
and the green lines and the orange lines
going up and going down and across
and the columns of numbers
and the bundles of paragraphs
segmented in numeric regions
illuminated, numerological, geographic.

with a left and a right,
an up and down,
a distance to and between,
an uprightness, a yaw on axis,
with grievances rising
to countable dimension: big,
small, imagined as movements
to apex or nadir, yes?

it means nothing, Henry said,
this imagined shape.
Sometimes, I said, ignoring, I forget
my left or right hand and pause,
briefly endeavoring if that handle
belongs in the right or left,
and then the memory
returns and I remember,
but in this strange
case what does it mean to know
right, to know left,
to know up,
to know down,
red and green,
and with what foot
I should begin
on that initiation
into the day?
Which way in traffic
to confirm for sidecomings,
and which way really is China,
as no matter left or right
from here and now,
I will eventually land there?

it doesn’t really matter, Imelda said,
who, I knew, was thinking of white
houses, and Henry, who, I knew,
thought of Lucy and unthinkables,
unutterables, sinscapes,
you, Henry, with your pleasantries
and excuses, Henry of the Red
Dots transfiguring,
who believe
the millions dying,
the millions unemployed,
the hundred storms coming,
the hundred floods
are of some god’s long division,
some god’s algebra,
some god’s abacus clicking,
your god at his computer
zamining the green lines and the blue lines,
who can believe whatever you wish
without physical consequence,
zamining his impossible infographs,
and is he right or left handed, which would matter
to everything with hands groping,
who believe in the shaping of nothing
without consequence?

east and west, I said, on circles
is a contrivance gleaned from axis
and, yes, even angle,
and beautiful words such as bearing,
orientation, and navigation,
what direction, I asked
these two is the Green Dragon
or the Yellow Dragon or the
Bird Vemillion, and which, I asked,
is your season to correspond with up,
down, assbackwardness,
and bullshits?

and the dullards at their pulpits
who have little better than a child’s picture
drawn with crayon or purple-tasting pens
of causings, who think an eclipse
or a groundhog
will bring us fortune or doom?

even now, I said, in this Twenty First Century
you bring your ghosts to bed,
imaging an afterlife stolen from your parents
and their preacher, who thieved
it from their own memories of the wayback
and Fathers of the Church or buried monks
when already fossils
had formed to their greatest hardness and detail
in their anteceding eons unknown,
but unlike fossils
your ghosts, your memories,
your elegant dismineralized suppositions,
your ready excuses,
puddle safe and unassailable
on the streets you walk.

but I refrained from this,
from unrolling my tongue
like a tapemeasure
where the notes of these words
stood at the edge, little sharp bits
of crockery I’d gnashed
for spitting, looked out,
retreated, scrambling back
into the blackness
behind my tonsil scars
not because they feared cutting
Henry’s skin, Imelda’s skin,
no, rather,
my aim was for Henry,
Imelda to keep their images,
at least for now on our momentary arc,
as Lucy with her butter hands
stirred the soup in the kitchen,
humming in her low tones,
safe momentarily,
my father, my mother safe
momentarily,
as safety’s best terminal companion
is an adverb.

I’m just saying we’re geographies,
I said, and sometimes we forget
which way is up and which of our hands
is best suited for spoons.

and I’m saying, no matter,
hell’s waiting for you, Henry said.
I wish I could do something
about that but no matter
your reasoning
hell is
–and he pointed to the floor.

82: coma, canto 27

canto 27

in myths, one builds
an arc to save a family
as not many other forms
come to hand for maneuvers
just so: We’ll build a floating house,
Gilgamesh said, no,
come floods or great rains,
and it is known that my father,
to extend his feel, his sense,
his outlines and thicknesses,
smell, his longitudes
on the eastwestness of time,
would tell me coma stories
and fleck them with a vision
of the heaven of other stories
and I would listen from my bed
or at the dinner table
or in the back seat of our arc
(making for certain salvation places,
vacations, of course)
when such a story would come,
not always, not always, no.

yes, he would say,
the light reminded me of heaven,
the ventilator light, he said,
places of waiting
among the sounds
of waiting, like the silences
before the big rains,
like the brevity
of hushed air,
momentous and momentary,
under the flashfast
of lightning,
swallowed after suddenly
by atoms made angry by heat.

I have a friend,
a poet, who says,
write about walking
to grab the mail when bored.
But I said, isn’t poetry
the poetry of energy not the mundane?
He said he didn’t know.
And so, how to turn into poetry
giving everything away,
when giving everything away
is so like going for mail.

I could write:
giving all away is not so easy.
I could write: it’s not so easy
to give away a car,
the one in the garage
my father kept for instance
from the Sixties.
He doesn’t know where to start,
my mother said. I told him
start slow, start small, she said.
He’s trying, my mother said,
again, an example of which, one,
the poet, my poet friend, would say
is mundane enough for poetry.

Imelda told me she wanted a white house,
a small frame, white house out in the desert
somewhere, where she was from, a snaky
road to it, where the tires meet stone,
gravel, and the driver must stop fast
for tortoise and wait for hours,
but in such a place, no need is wanting
for the need to get there any sooner
than the tortoise,
for above that white house
is a canyon that cuts into the mountain
and water trickles down from a mountain spring
and falls into pools of water icecold
and waterskipper skimmed
in stone bowls
and continuing
disappears
into the sand
where it ends
and where
the white house
begins,
she
said.

on a way home
(with this image: my father
writing a big black sign
with white letters that said: All Free!)
I stopped on the shoulder
of a bridge
and stood at the metal railing
and watched the million cars
go under me.

81: coma, canto 26

canto 26

him, how to describe,
tall, somewhat big round the gut,
though slimmer after sleep,
slenderer on the diet supplied,
wearing neither barbarian skins
nor an old prospector’s hat,
but buttondowns and a tie,
suit pants, huaraches brown,
tan, or white depending.

he with Crenshaw,
discursive on studies, reports,
the latest in the science of the brain,
my father said, swerving, Crenshaw
holding a cookie, unbitten:
I think I know what it means,
his death, his not being here,
he said. I said:
it means he’s not here, Crenshaw
listening for it all,
where this would all go.
Not here, and that in the service,
men expect to be hit, to fall,
to lose themselves in a tangle
of steel, to unload the weight
of their irons into the approaching
soontobedead. It means, he said,
the things we never talk about,
the questions we never broach,
we never want to broach:
I never asked him, Do you want to die,
expect to die,
in the words you say
are a service, the expectations
for special service, death
as sacrifice under stars
that tell a geometry
of a different language?

Do you want to die or do you want to serve,
I said, is a difficult question.
Crenshaw said, And is it easier,
my friend, to put it all together now?
With his unchewed cookie.
With his green eyes shining
under white hair.
Easier to put together a son’s death?
I asked I asked I asked.
We must try? the doctor said.
Yes we must at least try,
my father said.
His loss, his absence, my father said.
His last call, his last thought,
the thoroughness of his bleeding.

and I feared he would laugh,
still struggling against the alchemy
of inversions,
but he didn’t laugh,
no, as to describe him
now required other metaphors,
brightening, rebirth,
newbirth eggbreaking, a stepping forth
from some Dali room, where a man may
scrape his head on a diminishing ceiling,
and rise forth in a rounder space
with lofts and doors
perfect for human passage,
climbing out of the hole,
finally,
leaving the ladder-up behind,
the smells down there,
where at the bottom hungry rats
peer up, snap their little fingers,
say, ‘nuther gotterway.

he smiled at me. He said:
I don’t remember what I’d said
weeks ago: I know I couldn’t read;
I know I mixed things up;
I know I knew none of you,
denied you, Judaslike;
but now I know I miss my lost son
and the thought of heaven
again seems peaceful,
where he must be.
Which is, I said, the part I like about you least,
and we all laughed at that,
though why is mystery.
And so he appeared to us again.
And so, longed for other appearances
took on greater proportion,
elephantine or like waiting
for the appearance of Orca
after the seals have gained
shore but the seals
out of their cold seas
they cavort in the water
and we wait and wait
for the whales.

quote me Lear, I said.
He said no.
Quote from the good book.
He said no.
Quote me something from the physicians handbook.
He said no.
Quote me a love letter.
He said no.
Quote me Caesar.
He said no, I’ll quote nothing for you
who believe in nothing
and may never gain
the white room of god.

he turned from us and said,
yes, heaven is a white room,
must be so, where everything and nothing
everything and nothing comes
and never goes,
where everything emerges
emerging, waiting for me;
not sounds, not the restlessness
of lifes on this earth
midst machines, no,
as true Christians, he said,
we must must give everything away,
or we’re liars, thieves, truants,
Malvolios or Edmunds,
all we have give away, he said,
required by the white room
and its lofty silences,
which is indeed, he said, all I saw.

I thought you said
you saw nothing, I said.

a white room; a white room I saw,
he said.

a crafty madness, I said.

Guildenstern, my father said.

80: coma, interlude 15

interlude

my brother and I,
trash collecting
became our first business,
managing the daily and mundane
tossoff of accountants
in their offices,
which smelled of coffee grounds,
dusty curtains,
pencils, and ink
for copying.
Empty and fill dispensers,
remove deskside garbage,
remove hallway garbage,
remove the shredder bags,
dispose of paper cups,
vacuum the rugs,
polish the floors
with the big buffer
in the utility closet,
which almost killed us.

so that the accountants
could begin it all
again next day, men
we knew only from their photos,
family, and the state of their
respective places of work:
clean, ordered, stained,
ruinous with pink paper, yellow paper,
blue paper, white paper, pink memos,
blue memos, cigarette butts.
They all had children, perhaps grown now,
or not,
smiling happy from frames,
waving at the flash,
oldday polaroids, 35mm
film developed at the drug store
and squared behind the squares
of cheap frame glass.

this first business,
our first introduction
to hardcore pornography.
In the big drawers,
in filing cabinets,
stacked under the desks
plain to view,
so we’d finish work
and check for newest
material after months
of our craft’s beginning,
the first of many, coming on our
bikes every other day
after delivering papers
(which was someone else’s business),
unlocking the door,
removing the refuse
then staying a little
and turning the pages
of these wonders
of anatomy and brutality,
these wonders of imagination
and eventual dullness.

they’re all the same, you know,
I told my brother. At least, I said,
in Thor and Spiderman, the stories
change, but here, it’s always the same.
It always ends the same way.
My brother, who didn’t care, said:
yeah, but these breasts are all different.
Make sure you put them back
ordered right, I said, and we left,
the sky softening, the distant
sounds of early morning moving nearer,
and we’d ride our bikes
home, forgetting the sordid
magazines and smells of the accountants
with the day coming
for school and maybe a little sleep
before that.

on one ride back
my brother said:
You know the accountant
with the cleanest desk?
I think so, I said.
The one with the picture
of his family with the wife
or someone cut out of it,
the face cut out of it?
Pretty weird, I said,
just the face cut
out of it.
He said: I found the picture,
the cut out face.
You found it? I said.
He said, In one of the magazines.
He pedaled. I pedaled. He said:
in the one of the magazines,
tapped. Taped, I said?
It’s funny, he said, taped
on the face of a women
getting it by two dudes,
another one strangling her
while she’s getting it,
two dudes giving it to her
the third one doing the strangling.
Why didn’t you show me? I said.
I don’t know, he said.
I just looked at it and closed it.
Who’s that accountant? I asked.
The one with the cleanest desk, my brother said.

79: coma, interlude 14

interlude

and why not escape?
Were or are there rumors
of it, during transport maybe,
where the gate crashes down
and elephants, hippos, rhinos
gallivant and crush the tables,
chairs, and bright canopies
of the streetside cafes?

where I raise my hand
against a massive Hammer
and say, It was Henry,
for whom I have a list
of the seven deadly sins
I count and can prove:
gluttony, greed,
sin outofwedlock
under the sheets,
taken under auspice
of irony and blamelessness.

in secret, then?
You keep secret, your list,
your scoresheet,
and will you take back
what I hid in my tent
and stone and burn me
as Joshua did to Achan,
and they stoned and burned Achan’s
sons and daughters
and they stoned and burned
his sheep and they stoned and burned
even his tent
and the gold and the garments,
stoning and burning
the garments and the gold,
two of the elders with stones
stoning the tent with stone
after stone until their hands ached
and the tent groaned a last
dying breath
for the trouble Achan had brought
because it was all his fault
because he coveted?

and then they blamed their god.

as I imagine you will do
when the Hammer smashes
my face, which is the excuse
faith provides like a yellow bud
for the taking, but his secrets
are safe with me, I say,
I say, he’s my friend,
and it would be a strange
day for us all if I even
felt the lure of a stone
and smashed Henry
and his tent with it.

78: coma, canto 25

canto 25

but there were crashes:
Crenshaw the doctor said:
Yes, all the words have come back,
miraculous, yes, he used that word,
a word I’m not given
to tasting with wine and cheese.
Miraculous, I said, meaning miracle.
Which is impossible, I said.

Yes, all the words came back.
My father and his great parallel
packages of words,
my father the now retired brain doctor,
as he had the reading
words and the words baked into memory,
declaiming from memory
and reading from the flipped
open text of King Lear, for example, reading:
“Thou perjured, and thou simular man of virtue
That art incestuous: caitiff, to pieces shake,
That under covert and convenient seeming
Hast practised on man’s life: close pent-up guilts,
Rive your concealing continents, and cry
These dreadful summoners grace. I am a man
More sinn’d against than sinning.”

then flattening the book
on a table, standing tall,
closing his eyes,
me, Imelda, Henry, Lucy,
Maricela, Cruz, and my mother
as audience, with the smoke
of a grill for chicken
graying the window behind him,
closing his eyes and saying
from his brain:
et cetera et cetera
all the way to “sinning.”
Opened his eyes, then,
as if the meaning rose
to him like boiling stone from a hole,
he laughed
at the seeming joke of Lear,
said, Lord, that Lear the comedian,
“more sinned against than sinning”
“more sinned”
and so true, he said,
and laughed and laughed.

And note, he said with pride,
there’s the fool, such a tragic figure:
“Prithee, nuncle, keep a schoolmaster that can teach
thy fool to lie: I would fain learn to lie.”
reading from the text,
then closing the book,
repeating the process,
but at the fool used the nail-side
of his finger to catch
a rolling tear.
So sad, “nuncle,” “nuncle,”
such a sad thing to say,
my father said,
his eyes shining with salt.

and back to the apartment
we went, Imelda and I,
Henry and Lucy, Imelda and I.
Backward he had it, I said.
Yes, he had it inverted, Imelda said.
Confused the laugh for the cry, Henry said.
But he has, Lucy said, all the words back.
Did you see how my mother
watched me watching
and saying with her eyes:
don’t ruin it, you, you?
And my mother insisted Henry
do the coals and cook the chicken,
I said. Imelda, Henry, Lucy watched
the lamps of the city buildings;
they watched the billboards
repeat repeat repeat;
they watched me turn
this way and that way
the car.

how is that a miracle? I said.
How is that a miracle, Henry?

77: coma, canto 24

canto 24

so, Henry, Lucy
so, Maricela, Cruz,
all going to rooms I had,
telling more, with more beer,
then wine,
oh, Henry, watching me
with the embarrassment
of the sinner given to sinning
as he followed his love
to Lucy’s room,
her room,
I laughed to myself.

so, I rose into the window,
when all the others were sleeping,
the window where the moon hung
like a white bulb,
and left them all,
easing my car
under the parkingbasement arch
where the black buildings
across the way awaited the day
and the streetlamps
appeared dim and tired,

made my way
out the quieted city
and yawned when the Meadows
offramp came.
I parked on the softcrunch gravel
of the empty driveway,
walked through the warm night
to the fence,
turned east, turned west
with my face for watchers,
climbed the fence
into a farmscape
of black wagons,
blank stall windows,
and mounds in the distance
where the greenhouses
and the barns would tomorrow
open to the light of the sun.

At the door
to Imelda’s I turned
the key of course she’d given me one),
opened the door slowly
closed the door,
felt the hot breath
of the dogs at my knees
and their tickly whiskers,
and I said, Shh,
and the big cat came
for the wrapping of my legs.

I took a glass of water
in the kitchen,
admired the clean
sink, the hanging plants,
the cat and the two dogs
watching as if I might say
something amazing,
tell them a story,
but instead I went
to the couch;
it faced west;
I would wait,
wait for the sun to rise.

so, Imelda came
and sat beside me there
and put her head on my shoulder.
I’ve come to watch the sun rise,
I said, but the dogs
and the cat want a story.
She said, It should come soon.
They love stories.
And the cat? I asked.
The cat, but dirty stories.
Pornografico, she said.

so, the cat on the coffee table,
the two dogs on their corduroy couches,
waiting, Imelda and I gave them one.

76: coma, canto 23

canto 23

I urged Thor to understand
that it was beyond my understanding why
I found her toothbrush,
her creams, her combs
on the bathroom sink,
why suddenly foods
accumulated in the larders
and how Lucy would stand
and when I appeared the woman
with the tulip cup would wink,
say goodmorning, and resume
the conversation when I backed
from the balcony
and poured myself coffee Lucy had made.

he responded with the bottoms
of his prisonhouse rubber soles,
soon for dragging back by hard men
in uniforms who, it appeared,
had been waiting their chance
and the last thing he shouted
through the plexiglass:
I’ll hunt you down, Ersinghaus,
or whatever the fuck your name.
Hunt you down, god knows.
Sleep well.

Henry came and he held
Lucy’s hand at the couch.
They took a walk.
He giggled at something she said.
They pointed to Isaiah,
read the words from a small-print
bible and nodded, sharing
unbelievable truths.
Then the door to the apartment crashed
open and in came, no not Thor,
no not Thor, but Maricela and her
boyfriend, Cruz, or the other way around,
and my heart ceased
its sudden dash.
Cruz crocked down a sixpack
of something. Maricela clattered
out some chips and emptied
salsa into a bowl,
and she and Cruz said:
The play is over, Fin, over.
Cruz said, yes we sat
through all 54 performances,
watched it grow,
and it ended soly
with the words of the character named Steve:
Life is life, eh Monsieur?

I asked: can you turn the clock back?
Not at all, Maricela said. For time
travel is impossible. But I can
inform you (she brought up
a chip and crunched)
that the play is about guilt.
No, no, Cruz said (he brought
up a chip and crunched),
there were no guilty parties
to the crime, the bombing,
though there were suspects:
Steve, for example, Mdala,
yet another, who claimed
himself as target in the end.
No, I meant guilt or perhaps fate,
Maricela said, or the cruelty of suppositions.
But, she added, with her beer, Cruz
with his beer, Lucy with hers,
Henry with his, Henry seated beside Lucy,
and me with the image of Thor’s
loud rubber soles in my eyes
and a threat like a shade in the streets
wandering, weaving whitely
through the closepack of vehicles
between the road stripes,
seeking me here.

no, she said, that wasn’t the most interesting
aspect. You’re right, Cruz said,
no, for, we saw, on the last day,
when the lights went out
and we waited for something,
he said. Yes, a light
went on, a spot light bursting
the quite that follows all plays
once the clapping has stopped,
and a man with a ponytail
stepped into the illumination,
and altered the narrative,
yanked us elsewhere,
pulls us down another track,
loaded us onto another train.
Maricela said: yes, this man
with a ponytail came and took
us back in time and read us
new characters, showed us images
of those things that occurred
before the meeting of the original
characters of the play,
read us fascinations
of the past,
things prior to the bombing
and the blast off, this new work called
Coast Walk Diaries,
concerning revolutionaries,
Catholics,
haunted houses in the mountains,
haunted bridges in the mountains,
parents running and walking
through a world turned sepia.

Henry said, But I thought time
machines impossible. Not in plays,
Maricela said. Anything is possible
in plays. Which is correctly
said, Cruz said. Yes, yes, he said,
we will be returning for further
performances, as we’re intrigued
by the connections between revolutionaries,
bombings, and where, indeed, my favorite
character fits in it all, which is Celeste.
Yes, Celeste, Maricela said.

and so we ate chips and drank beer
into the night, Henry and Lucy holding
hands, Maricela and Cruz swerving
into and out and into and out
of their persistent lives
and I listened
with stacks of myself
accumulating amidst them,
imaging Thor, imaging my mother,
imaging Imelda, to whom I wished
I’d extended invitation,
and my father: I imaged
him at his desk, reading,
rereading, catching back
on years of meanings forgotten.

and I agreed with the Monsieur.

75: coma, interlude 13

interlude

he asked with a cold beer
glass in in his red hand:
What if you’re wrong?

I said the trouble
of it reminded me of feathers
(or something to that effect),
my girl gone, this hotel waybar
a mere convenience. But, he said,
again, What if you’re wrong.

And I said again
it reminded me, this choice
of a feather, and added:
what if you’re right, would you,
would you with your concept
of heaven, you admitted, right, in the end,
correct, correctness portioning
the physics of your new floating space,
would you be so smothered by happiness,
knowing me, your new friend, who
will purchase you another drink soon,
happy knowing I’m burning in the fires of hell.

furthermore, I said, in this cosmos
we live in (or something like this), I said,
do you imagine a deity so fraught with spite
that he would demand of his creations
belief, in his creation, if created,
of stars, light years, and quarks,
belief
or else,
that a deity whose galaxies
are expanding still and lit with countless
sunsspaces of such expansiveness
and possibility would cast me
and my kind into everlasting mud
because we went another way,
disbelieving, unbelieving, doubting, or indifferent?
No, I said, only people would imagine
such a creature, so powerful, so petty, so small.

how, Henry said, the red dove
on his forehead eagerly flapping now,
(or) where did you come by your knowledge
of the human mechanism,
so confident, so quick?
What makes your knowledge of the human?

a question, I thought,
pretty good and my finger
to the barkeep said two more.

I said: because, even thought I
live now and not then, now,
never saw Jerusalem burn,
though I’ve seen burnings,
seen whole buildings fall,
heard my brother cry,
seen men and women lose their minds
(will see a world without bats,
will wonder where all the bees went,
will watch as the schoolless climb
onto the ship of leadership), I said:
everyone wants to be worshiped.

I could, however, be wrong.

74: coma, interlude 12

He tells her he’s doing all right.

interlude

Lorenzo, though I’m guessing,
had his trials before turning great,
I will never be great,
my brother will never be great,
buried and forgotten,
and for being stabbed the Pazzi
conspirators were drowned, hanged,
their accounts wiped from the earth,
though I’m guessing, and, so, wounded
Lorenzo rose and watched
closely for puss in the wound,
maybe saw poetry in the scar.
And what was it they said, Michelangelo,
this Lorenzo as the sun crossed,
crawling behind the morning tree branches
and those feathers flitting
that must have been there too
maybe:

Lorenzo: Today, Buonarroti, how do you?

Michelangelo: Oggi non moriranno di fame, mio ??signore.

and so news came that a famous
singer, man or woman, had died, faith saying
she or he was a famous singer, actuality answering
she or he was just a child, a young woman or man
with a frailness for wine and pills
and with a father and mother who loved her or him,
faith saying get on the stage
as you’re a star, actuality knowing
she or he sat on the toilet weeping,
and used paper for cleaning,
which is never told of in poetry.

and so the world will end with the last golden frog
withering in the sun
and the man or woman behind the camera will
snap it and say: I snapped
a photo of the last golden frog, huzzah,
by faith I say
and future faithfuls will say:
I believe it and I believe it
and I believe it, too,
these beauties in which we believe
natures cruelty resided,
and so we’re wonderful,
and actually will come
in its rags
and say
it’s a photo of the last golden frog,
fool, and no more will ever rise
in the night and make it sing.

in what do you believe?
Why didn’t the man behind
the camera move stones
grow fronds
pour waters
and give the frog a life,
the singer a hand
out of her or his abyss
and maybe, just maybe,
with real courage
the woman would say:
take your picture now, fool,
of me, waking
to the morning sun,
and maybe, just maybe
today, we will not starve.

73: coma, canto 22

canto 22

yes, reader, we
Lucy and I and You
ascended,
and home in my place,
my place of rest where a fly persisted
like a black asteroidal and astral
bird, persisted
through a column
of slanted window light
and Lucy, in her room
fingered her things
with her small butter
hands, I thought of Henry
and the whales and the elephants and cranes
on his back and his hands,
all in all of the red speckles of him:

how, I, brought by an ex
girlfriend to a study group,
where Henry sat between college
students in buttondown shirts,
chips in bowls,
softdrinks in their plastic yokes
on skyblue table cloths,
he a student himself.
I sat with my girl facing the leader,
who wore a lion-colored chincurtain beard
and whose shiny head caught
the overhead lamps,
and persisted, while many wrote
notes, nodded, tapped their pencils
or pens, wrote, tapped, erased,
wrote more, with simple truths,
saying: the first thing is to believe
in him and trust in scripture
for it is sole, all you need,
sola scriptura, and at the sound
of the terms sola scriptura
the girl beside me let forth
a sapling thin air of agreeableness
and I raised my hand
and asked the chincurtained leader
if I could ask a question and he
asked my name and I said my name
and said I was new and ignorant
of the formalities of bible groups
and he said that was beautiful
and yes I could ask
my question and I asked:
what is sola scriptura?
He answered: it’s all you need,
meaning scripture.
And I asked him it’s all you
need for what?
Salvation, he said, for in scripture,
he said, there is something sufficient
for all people and all people
are sufficient enough to know
a sufficiency for salvation,
and more beautiful still, he said,
scripture will show the reader,
show the thinker, reveal itself
those gems of knowing
enough for holiness,
for the scripture is a fountain,
he said, bursting with the spirit
of god, and I thanked him
for his answer, feeling the girl
beside me quivering
and the others scribbling
and Henry with an obvious
dove made by the speckles of his
forehead, but, this Henry
had enslendered the lids
of his eyes, watching,
suspecting that the devil
had come and did not mean
thank you for the answer
thank you thank you thank you

no, so he watched me,
and I asked the leader if he
would bear yet another question
as I told him all the others
here were scribbling so hard so had no time
for a question or two
and he said, yes, yes, ask,
and I asked: how did he know
about this sola and was he sufficient
to know sufficiency when he saw it?
Where, also, I asked, did he uncover
such a vast knowing of the human
mechanism to infer with such a mastery
so much more sufficient and authentic
than so many armies of scholars
seated in their paper-surrounded
desks, seated, siting back and weeping
over their estranged brains
and the reason for all the hatred,
love, poverty, and lying out there?
And, I asked (Henry with his big fists
fisted and his big eyes rawer
around the rims
than fresh sirloin
around a bone)
did he think that maybe
the scriptures were perhaps
some trick of history whose door is indeed shut,
for what did people do, how did they die,
how did they get along and sow the soil
prior to their writing?

but he, the teacher,
would, being the teacher,
not be so easily written off,
and he said: first you must believe;
you must have trust, as in Deuteronomy
that says the word of god is your life
and the showings of Micah
where what was revealed was good
and Paul in Timothy’s call for faith and conviction.

but as to Moses, I said,
did he live under the thumb
of Assyria? Did he come to a sleeping
Isaiah or Josiah and give the words
for writing and ofter a stick of charcoal
for recording;
oh Moses blessed
this and that, maybe, I said, but how do you
know? First, he said, this teacher,
with conviction,
you must have faith
and the book will ring true–
and that’s when I laughed
and I laughed at him, the teacher,
laughed at his beard,
laughed at the girl beside me,
yes I laughed but not loudly,
no, more so just a soft laugh,
a laugh that wondered why
this teacher avoided my question
and why Henry, when the meeting
let and my girl became my exgirl,
who refused my eyes, my hand,
thereafter, saying,
you’re just an embarrassment,
but Henry stopped me
on the street and said, with that
little red dove on his face,
a red dove in pointillism
where a cyclopes’ eye should be,

he said, Would you want to get a beer?
And that’s how we became friends.

72: coma, canto 21

canto 21

she said: I need my things,
what things there were,
in this world where foreshadowing
is like a squeak in the dark.

yes, reader, she said,
she needed some things,
and so I followed
her by blocks and blocks
to a hole in the city
out of which blew an electric
scent and the vented winds
of a million exhalations
and the subtle buffet
of a million echoing footsteps
and the sonic tailends
of a million words
whispered or shouted,
and down then we
made our descent.

through turnstiles,
under arches,
weaving with shoulderstrikes
and half-glances
and the crumbly rumble
of underground trains,
like machine whales threading,
down another passage,
another whose decline
I could feel under my shoes,
to a wall
with an arched portal,
where I stopped
and stopped
and Lucy turned to me, smiled,
took both my hands,
and we crossed together
first into lamplit quiet,
then into a great passage
where, along the walls
other peoples
sat, lay, placed cards down,
roamed into and out of tents,
yellow on the inside with sourceless
light, and hands darted,
hands longfingered, attached to the bodies
of fast-snatching snakes, all the while,
overhead,
from the ceiling drifted
a soft ash, a soft dust,
and the rumors of life
under the sun.

now with my hand
in Lucy’s hand, leading,
we went further still,
men watching,
women watching,
there a man and a woman
weaving baskets for sale
under the light from a handcranked box,
there two small children with a mouse
in a cage,
there men and women
haggling over a box
of apples,
now, a man with long
legs and in a black jacket
said, Let me show
you let me show you
let me show you,
and I said, Show me what?
and Lucy pulled me away, saying
Just stay away from the knives.

we approached what looked like a bunker,
a place imprisoned by concrete walls,
who knows its original meaning,
and, yes, a tag in the third person,
writings above the portal-in that said:
This is Thor’s place.
If you come in I will hunt you down.
Just ask Leon. Just ask Jim.
We entered and Lucy, who perhaps
was queen of this place,
this place where the unemployed
eventually made their way,
the sick or insane,
and more likely to come,
this place of handcranked,
handcrafted light,
this place where I saw a woman
doing hair, this place whose
heat came from the radiations of closeness,
whose smell of moist stone
whose smell of human waste
whose smell of mint (yes mintiness)
whose grays, blacks, and reds
emerged in blocky shapes,
corners, and cracks in the walls
and where rope was used
for cordoning, where men and women
used refrigerator boxes for bedrooms,
where clusters of humans
were red-yellow lit by small fires
or flashlights, where small mirrors
made the little light bigger,
there in Thor’s Place on the walls,
there on the walls on racks
there against the walls in milk crates
my television, my CDs, my expensive
wires and all the other objects
of Thor’s nightly work waited
for his return,
all protected by a single sign,
a sign that threatened the hunt,
and the last memory of Leon and Jim.

just a few things, I need,
Lucy said, with her small hands
working, her eyes going here,
there, her small gray frame
moving fast, and then she approached
me with a bag over her shoulder,
filled with whatever things she needed.
Just a few things, she whispered.
The rest of it, you can have it back
if you want it, she said,
and I whispered nothing,
shook my head,
and when I turned,
there, yes there, in the fresher light
of this great sunless, starless hall,
a large man with a knife
had been slashing at my back
all this time I’d been watching Lucy,
slashing at the air
inches from my shoulders,
just slashing.
When I turned, when Lucy
and I moved at him
he backed, slashing,
slashing stall, each slash
making a song note
of wounded air,
then he motioned, ducked,
disappeared,
and we made our way
through carts, card tables,
coffee brewing,
smoke and ghost hands batting at it,
radios telling stories,
children clapping,
grandmothers and grandfathers
shuffling with unsurmiseable eyes
from one lamp
to another lamp,
stepped over trails of urine,
stepped around piles
of clothes,
in this underworld
in this place turned
weather or disaster shelter
but the bad weather
or the disaster never diminished
and there was nothing
to return to after the passing of the storm,
no agency to deliver lunch,
no church made for saving,
no retreating of the flood waters
or trucks to come and haul
away the broken wood,
cut clean the fallen trees
for rebuilding.