A ROMANCE OF HAPPY WORKERS
In the beginning we will begin
with Woody and his ideological kiss.
I can't put Siberia down
but can't keep holding onto it.
His lips were a proletarian meditation
on May, all a battle between pathogens,
just those ordinary fears of newlyweds,
reformist or revolutionary. Saved
from drowning, I straddled
Woody on the Bolshevik mattress
and proposed like a furnace in August.
Not able to unite in a common struggle,
the marriage ended, a Trotsky and a mouse.
In the land of happy Workers
the poets lived to harvest ice.
Hints of sparrow, rabbit, dogcall
mobilized the resident sundown
and the political lurch scurried
under verse reports of want.
One needed special bags for this
and a hyper-grade nocturnal habit.
I'm done gliding on the lake. Dedicated
to the class struggle, Woody serves
a dinner of quince paste and little else.
"Saffron Love" sounds Top 40
in the country of chemical bliss.
Blatant as an industrialist,
these lies from the factory.
But how did art sound?
I'd say punchy, with action verbs
and the remote ratcheting of craft.
Offer alliteration on silver-plate,
present two citrons, one flimflam soul.
The sublingual secret remained
grammatical but made no sense.
No one stole the heresy.
We never had such a thing as work.
All the slick disappearance of what I loved.
I remember Woody's hammer, par avian.
He called it an experimental afternoon.
Once a week his manifesto flew
to my room. I'll admit nothing.
All the Czar's bassists, all the Czar's men:
Tyroleans mouthing Viennese rock songs.
These days Woody propagandas me under the sheets:
We are never better than the Workers!
There are no Workers left, I'd answer,
but his sickle is hard against my knee.
The Deus Ex Machina Puppet Troupe
flew into Leningrad half past noon.
I waited among the Tartars, bored
as moon. Woody showed, stinking
of pomegranate, gulag-eating grin.
I let him make a bed in my ear.
His rent cost nothing, two dummy rubles
and a half-spent roll of gossamer.
I babushkad around his breath
100 mornings as if icons were Workers,
poems blocks of ice. My comrades say
leaving out meals will bring in the dead.
I would feed him what he wanted:
the cunning measures of production, stars.
Red giants slow dance, fire to fire,
burning up everything. This marriage
is a rumor we once heard.
The heroes of the People hum, like cicadas.
The People sound like us
who never wanted to eat or sleep.
A Kremlin of lips. A Cyrillic vowel.
A Workers' harmony. A song might leak
out when silence is the acoustic remedy.
How can we escape by foot an occupation of wings?
The year zero, I marked my calendar Dr. Zhivago.
I sing of love, a roulette tournament!
The morning of Woody's exile, I slept
for weeks. He accused me of waxing
aphoristic: Happy Workers pledge themselves
to the obstruction of their desire.
Workers who do not own the means
misprize it, find it hovers
over head instead of sleep. Ophelia
barters for love, swallows silt.
Here rosemary. Here Hamlet's kiss.
Imagine at once a particle and its velocity.
Imagine your comrade's tributaries:
they all spill over for you.
A revolutionary has no principle
for uncertainty. Madame Tsvetaeva
reads his hand, feels Kill Creek:
this line here means your heart still beats.
Sometimes Woody eyes me
over his unhappy salad and speaks
of the statistical probability.
We are like capitalists searching for paperclips.
Who could know that Cosmos 1953 would pass
under Cassiopeia in a memorable configuration?
How else might one catch a sustained glint?
The night was clear, my eyes maladapted.
I had never seen Mir so bright.
Written like parting, coupling becomes
a pyrrhic victory.
Note Glasnost. Note Cosmonauts.
Note the gift thrown in the fire.
The Potemkin sailed on. Clichéd
as a martyr, Woody eats in my lazy-boy,
his heart on the leatherette pedestal.
We layered latitude over longitude
but never ended up anywhere.
Woody, why didn't you warn me revolution
would be so pale? The dining room protests
like elbows. The air protests like knees.
It's the music that degenerates.
I hold a compass to his left ear
and file papers for a waltz.
But how can one fuss
about our Hero of the People?
Gnat size lapses?
Dinner? More tea colored eggs?
Parts of this poem previously appeared in 42 Opus