HOW LONG DOES A TRANSITION LAST?
Do not write history in verse
Afterwards we shall sit on the ground to read all their hearts
as though we were reading the history of the world for the first time.
It all depends
on the angle of the rain,
or the throw of the dice.
The backgammon player tosses the dice--
one for the game,
one to tell what will survive the war.
More ways to perish than the wild spring flowers.
So much random shelling, weapons
target fellow weapons, ceaseless fire.
The sniper’s vision is as narrow as his rifle’s barrel.
The wounded are gunned down in hospitals.
The incarcerated gassed in official vans.
The bodies found with flies and wallets among their parts.
Death dyes all the flags.
How many elegies?
The nurse says:
Our vital signs,
our heart beats are all the same.
Our wounds are all the same.
The dead are all on one side.
Must we grieve to get along?
Children huddle inside their parents,
interrogate their courage, children smile
to ease their parent’s sadness.
No exit. A woman in a refugee camp
misses her house and neighbors
in the old refugee camp.
A refugee man misses his dignity.
The rickety boats are passports
to peril in the dark sea.
Meanwhile, the moon, like a bureaucrat,
orbits through its routines.
Is this a homeland, or a lunatics’ asylum?
The opinionators shell each other
Your god is not my god;
your coffee is not my coffee;
your parrot is not my parrot.
I can lay claim to your life.
To each a fate, a probability,
which the throw of the dice does not alter.
Your life, my life prove nothing?
If the sky is overcast,
don not think the stars have departed?
Orientals are realists,
they believe only in results?
The flower is a peaceful Achilles?
You try to knead the world,
but you become the dough?
My mother used to say,
The wise have left nothing unsaid.
The coach instructs:
Breathe in, breathe out,
and away, evaporate, as when moved
by a deep feeling.
Uncertain, he revises:
If this fails,
draw deep on your cigarettes--
cigarettes often work--
the dry tobacco lights up,
drills a hole in the dark of one’s vision.
Poetry is not a weapon,
it aims not at closure,
but at disclosure.
Trying to regroup, the inmate reads the
writing on the walls of his dimly-lit cell.
The wall opposite to his eyes:
There will be a time for music and apricots,
a time for the wild stomping of the dancing feet,
a time for the time-resistant chief
to spin on his final curve, breathing fast, in and out,
a time to exult even in the hurts of being free,
a time to say “we” without lighting another cigarette.
The wall on the right:
We were repressed,
a weight heavier than the great pyramids’
sat on our chests.
We turned it over,
or did we?
There was too much light,
a surfeit of adrenaline.
We saw too clearly.
We did not understand,
we did not love enough.
The wall on the left:
Where does death come to an end?
When do we cease to be an inspiration of pain?
Who can still find shelter behind the sandbags
of myth or history?
How long does a transition last?
The fourth dimension:
I have time, I need space.
The backgammon player tosses the dice.