New York American Spell, 2001

I / omen

What was going on in the New York American
Black/red/green helmeted neon night?
The elevator door was closing behind us, we were the ones

Plunging floor after floor after floor after floor
To the abyss — but it was someone else’ s face
Staring from the screen out at us, someone else’ s face

Saying something flashing from the teleprompter:
Though what the face said was meant to reassure,
Down in the abyss the footage kept playing,

Morning Sun

Raised on a cozy diet of conditional love,
I learned to emoji from teevee.
Now I’ m hounded by gripes before my time.
Twisted in my genome is this thorn,
and all I see are feuds,
even swans got boxing gloves for heads.

— Ah Ketty-San, why so mori? Maybe you need upgrade
of person?

History shat on every household.
Cop cruisers wand their infrared along bludgeoned homes,
demanding boys to spread your cheeks,
lift your sac —
Now, here’ s an alcopop to dull that throb,
hide your ugly feelings.

Aubade

Lathe of the ocean. Perpetual
Motion machine of the waves. Everything still
Being turned and shaped to a shape nobody
Foresees: Ten years ago, was it, when we

Walked that shore, too earnest and sheepish
To hold hands? The wind cutting through our clothes
Cleansed and burned, the chill off the Atlantic
An ache we courted in our dumbstruck talk:

KM4

1/ THE MOUTH

Not English Somali Italian French the mouth
blown open in the Toyota battle wagon at KM4
speaks in a language never heard before.

Not the Absolute Speaker of the News,
not crisis chatter's famine/flame,
the mouth blown open at KM4
speaks in a language never heard before.

Speaks back to the dead at KM4,
old men in macawis, beards dyed with henna,
the women wearing blue jeans under black chadors.

On the Yard

After lockdown, tier by tier undresses to sleep:
Each skull nestles in its mattress-hollow.
Wall facing wall inside of wall shrinks to a keyhole:
A fly creeps through and starts to buzz, reeling through bars
Down steel corridors. A dreamer’ s eye follows the fly,
And wherever the fly lands, the eye touches down
With an airier Midas touch that turns all to glass:
The eye wakes to Bentham’ s panopticon, glazed cage
Of an inspection house where only the Warden sees all.

The Last Word

As if your half-witted tongue
Spoke with an eloquence
Death bestows, I heard your voice
Muffled through the dark
Layers of cemetery loam:

“They found me black-suited
In the shuttered half-dark, my eyes
Dug like claws into the clouds’
Soft feather-turnings. What kept me
Separate the broiling sun

Of intellect now shone on fiercely:
In the sheep-pens stinking
Of dung and lanolin,
I buried my face in the ewe’ s
Swollen side and listened

The Meadow

Across the road from where we nap
under a dead elm dazzles the meadow
where the partisans strung the traitors up,

the meadow which their dangling shadows stain.
Belly up in vines a blasted tank
rusts flake by flake to lichened scrap iron

while horseflies harangue
the rippling green, July
a limbo of quavering yellow...

We wake to cattle lowing at dawn,
grass overgrowing summer — so like us
in love each hour with the noonday sun

The Wound

When I woke the darkness was so thick,
So palpable and black that my eyes
Seemed blind as stone staring into stone.

The blade that I had dreamed, efficient and quick
As it cut into my thigh, cleaning a gangrened
Wound infected to the bone, seemed poised

Above my throat: Close-grained, impenetrable,
The blackness rose before me like a wall.
And then off in the next room, nervous, light,

A soft padding as of an animal
Raced like my heartbeat in my temples
Round and round, trapped, stealthily desperate

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