Orshi Drozdik, Dystopia, 1986, black and white photograph.
The Ancient One
Who is this ancient one
in my body
behind the bars and glass
while night descends
and fire goes quietly over the mountains.
I am here sighing
in some strange language.
There between the branches
under a panoply of wild promise
a wordless web of lights
orders my tongue to retreat.
Before I go I remember
I wanted to say something
about the orange lights on the river
the boat that returns
for I saw it more than once
and a city of light many times.
Green Haven Halls
Sometimes walking down these halls
the walls can be a lonely gauntlet
with little relief in the broken windows.
These wacky tunnels, bleeding catacombs—
how make the cement surrender its resonance?
Who was that lunatic
they wheeled through yesterday?
Did you hear him raving
about hollow halls
and hallowed men seeking concrete exits?
He was playing the restraining sheet blues,
plucking the straps with his teeth
and the gaps in his mouth
were whistled complaints
cuz someone had washed the songs off the walls.
Then there was Crazymoto and the Rainbow Niggers
got caught urinating on the Z Block wall,
said: We are agents of Mahatma Gandhi
assigned to cool the fires of purgatory.
They scattered our bones
in the heart of the gulag.
When words become swords
hacking at unhealed wounds
and eyes are three sealed tombs
while every second draws blood
running like a yellow river
past the cave’s blue door.
After Almost Twenty Years
This is getting difficult.
Perhaps there’s another formula
for happiness and contentment
I haven’t explored or exhausted yet.
But I talk to birds.
I have to put in my partial plates tho
w/tip of index finger fanning wet lips
the sound near-identical
which amazes me.
Recently the birds woke me up
with their clamorous love
wings beating around the bars and glass
in animated flight
jailbirds in the rush of lusty spring.
I was barely awake, grumbling at my broken sleep
then somehow drawn out
into the quiet light
sitting on the side of my bed.
And there they were
two of em
beaking it up.
Oh! I could’ve fallen into curled glee
wound with the spring’s redemption.
And the nest already built
under the highest beam in the block.
Rain falling on the 4th of July
went to the little yard on the roof
standing in my boxer shorts
I peed down the drain
cuz even the bathroom’s locked up.
Then went in for a cold shower
walked naked down the tier
in my green-towel superman cape
past stunned and smiling guards
and buddies laughing in the cages.
“My token expression for the day,”
I said. With dignity.