I AM NOT BUILT FOR DEAD
bodies—my people in their Czarist
wouldn't have seen one, only attending
funerals for their own. They came to this land
of table wakes and windowed typhoid caskets
so I could have a new life mourning
those whose Books permit remembrance in
the open light. America: the old bureau
that fell on me when I opened too many drawers.
Someone approach and remove it, please, but not
you or you or you—yes, now I see
everyone good is gone, for everyone good
I’ve averted my eyes and sung OH LET THE CIRCLE,
and all remaining compatriots are awful:
despots too old to be tried, artists in want
of adulation, the couple where the woman
has a kind of tic and makes a racy comment
every twenty minutes. She sucked off a stranger,
she told me, during a stay in the French Quarter,
and her husband snapped then in her turtle face:
NOBODY CARES. EVERYONE HAS A PAST.
MOSTLY I DON'T WANT TO HAVE
too many fears. What if he knows
believed more boys than girls were born in wartime,
to account for casualties in battle, leave
the world in balance? What if he cannot tell
whether or not it is wartime, whether or not
his purpose is mere replacement? What if he flees
to a field of ice, lucks into a research job
itemizing the stomach contents of terns,
inducing them to spit up their prey for science?
What if he makes a mistake and a bird falls ill,
and to spare pain, he must bludgeon her with a rock?
What if he forges his home on a rockless coast?
What if he has to kill her with his fist?
What if he then finds solace in superstition?
What if he won’t breathe when passing a graveyard?
What if he doesn’t realize so many are murdered
that graveyards run for miles? What if he goes blue,
endeavoring to avoid the breath of the dead?
What if he does not die but instead is damaged?
What if must rely on the aid of a dog?
What if he does not care for the dog, and strikes it,
and leaves it out to swelter, and someone yells
I HATE TO SEE WHAT YOU WOULD DO TO A CHILD,
and runs off? I don’t want to have a son.
Daughters are simpler. All they need to learn
is neither speed nor be caught, and if you are caught,
make him follow you to a parking lot,
somewhere bright and unclosing, before you cut
the engine. Always ask to see a badge.