Friday, September 18, 2009

14th & 5th: A Poem, Before the Magic All Turned Black

14th & 5th
saturday afternoon splattered with tuesday paint
off the pathtrain on 14th & 5th
follow the rush of wind up the stairs
shades mask the wolfish gaze
stepping into a maze where
walking is like wading waist-deep.
sleep abandoned me, hypnos and morpheus
are on a hunger strike, leaving me
lean as a wraith, hungry like cassius standing in line
at little caesar's, hungry for a poem
like a slab of broiled animal flesh on a bun
. . .or maybe just the animal itself,
something i have to hunt down while it's hunting me
like lon chaney with a hangover.
something this dangerous shouldn't be so much fun
something this turbid shouldn't laugh, or cough, or
walk, or run . . . a philosopher's stone, stoned
and tripping on the heat-shimmer ripple
over sizzling sidewalks and street-corner alchemists.
i feel like i could survive on the air itself,
something i could reach out and cut into slices,
priceless and poisonous and a thousand times more
carnivorous than any lean and tawny frame
leaning in a doorway. eyes
cut slices of me, a little piece for each,
plenty of spectacle to go around. i'm just
part of the whole sideshow, you know, not
freakish enough to steal the whole thing, but
snapshots of my own, apple peeled down to the bare core,
down to my favorite incense store
where the shopkeeper kneels and faces the east
his eyes focused on something i can't see.
i feel like i should take off my shades
and stand in the sunlight, gazing up in awe
like a tourist, another visitor. it makes me feel
naked, but i won't turn my eyes away, and i
won't pretend that i'm not amazed.
this is like a book i've searched for all my life,
and if tomorrow finds me half a continent away,
it won't stop me from turning to the east
several times a day
to the mecca i found. or maybe it found me.
or maybe we just met each other
on the street. i won't look over my shoulder,
i know what's following me, and
what i'm leaving behind. when everything catches up
with me, i guess i'll be right here
where i still don't know if i'm going to be able to
breathe, and i'm terrified, holding my breath, but something here
is doing my breathing for me
and each lungfull is just another poem waiting
in the wings, and another poem
is stalking me. thank God
the pen is still mightier than the sword,
or maybe they're just two ways of looking
at the same thing.
perspective is a piece of fruit
on the branches of this unknowable tree,
and something that holy is dangerous, but the fruit is ripe.
i have so much work to do.
the time for harvest is now.

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