‘Marah’ from ‘bitter’ in the prophets’ tongue
Survived in the cartographer’s cognomen and
The eponymous bitterness bequeathed us
Where the Cunard, Black Ball, White Star fortunes,
Swelled in the stench of steerage
In frenzy to strike the rock—
Once for luck, twice to insure exclusion
From the very Eden it proposed.
The white shirt pocket puked
Pencils and cigarettes.
The mailbox torso stuck on sausage legs,
He strode The Overpass,
Or took one during little Steel,
In the perennial red scare/that was the industrial age, until
Now not the Pinks, but the Tobacco,
Sent him to see Joe Hill.
Mountainous ashtrays on the
Across which my Bull glared at yours.
That brief rhodomontado
In the Labor Caanan.
Debs in the Joint. Bombmakers, Pamphleteers.
Big Bill, Haymarket Saints, axe-handles for the Goons at
In that hundred-years war
’Til the scab from Orange County
Told the broken back of Labor.
That swine, fink for the F.B.I.,
Informer, clown, and all his handlers,
True to their code, the exudate upon the Crown of Thorns.
Sixteen-to-One, froe Silver met the trickle-down
’Til never the brave homosexuality of our Nurse,
Nor the Brave Prairie Rose
Sang to the working class.
Where no tyke rushed the growler,
Where no evening-scrubbed paterfamilias
Donned his regalia for the Lodge,
No Darrow, no Debs, no,
“A man with a trade is a man, and he can tell
The rest of the world to go to Hell.”
No sinner, no saint.
No Bryan, no Goons and Marmrs
Just the soft clicking of the keys
The Good Lord sent to distract us
In the final moments of a life without work.
—Labor Day 1992
(in memory of my father)
The Pond at Twilight
Vast black crows in the smoke yard
Mock the hand that sowed the field.
Dry summer or cold spring
Leached color from the Pond
The White Sign said at twilight:
“Do not pursue me, for I flee.”
Incomprehensible, save we reflect
That it is not for Man.
Not in pursuit of food
But in idolatrous and awkward
Folly called understanding,
Now the faro box, or Politics
Lends that compulsion;
And the urge to husband energy,
Warped from the fight for food,
Impels our self predation
As the deer on the pond, barking alarm,
Torn down by dogs,
Dies screaming like a bad impulse;
Dry summer or cold spring all one, incomprehensible
In the long overview of our attrition,
Save we reflect it is not for Man.
But Yet We Still Would View It With Affection
The Mysterious Healing Processes of Grief
Like Punctuation In An Ancient Text,
Amharic Or The Thighs
Of The Nubian Goddess
Now But Our Bad Penny
On The Tongue Like Blood,
Derailed The Railroad Train
We Watched Like Frightened Gods
While The Vast Locomotive
Swelled To The Last Girth Of The World
Ravaged The Town
And Our Beloved Penny
On The Eyes Of Poets
Wasted From Egoism
By Administration Of That Coin
Whoever Controls Copper Rules The World
Surprised in the grace of the fat man’s dance;
Or: though in honesty we allow each
Of the girl’s individual features
Disappointed, the conglomerate pleased.
But it is not the girl, nor her companion,
Nor his inspirited step, nor her radiance.
Neither the thought, nor its amendation,
The diary, nor the pen,
Nor any apposite construction of the couple’s burden.