Winter 2012, #18



Inosculation, an Ode to Walt Whitman

It is early afternoon and I take the PATCO train
over Ben Franklin bridge, the Campbell's plant
near the shell of the house you bought with what
was left of time and circumstance, a short walk
from the Delaware, the river Washington crossed
with his foot on the edge of the boat, on softness
of throats too dark to speak against this democracy
that can forget when left to forget, the smokestacks
of places that turned wheels and chemicals and steel
bolts riveted to girders of these bridges, the train
a silent steel snake with corpuscular dreams
like the dream of this world of pursuing markets
of happiness. I am lost to the world of my neighbors
when I take this ride over to professorship, a giant
Snickers bar hidden in the pocket of one of my
only two sport coats, riding over to the office
with the same numbers as Sethe's house in Beloved,
as if I walk out of the river fully suited and tied
to be the nightmare demanding love from rooms
low on it, demanding that shadowy spaces will
take an invested belief in me, will, grow, ripen
into an ending of all suspicion of my abilities,
so I can sit in these meetings we have in your house,
some memorial to you, the house empty of the mess
that was your imprimatur, stacks of papers everywhere,
an assemblage greater than any merz Schwitters
was ever able to call a work of art, the clutter
that is like the forced weaving that makes the stock
of soup that resists melting, our democratic dream,
as some squeak in the voice questions the possessive--
--when did any of us ever utterly agree to "you?"--
while at the bottom of this bridge that I rode to Philly
in a car with Gwendolyn Brooks I now go
underground to where my roots reveal tentacles
of my own doubt cast in me by those who love me.

Dear God, Postmodernism Is Dead

If this were the last time to say your name
it would have to be an awkward gasp
in the deep hollow of silence to ask
forgiveness, not from you, but others,
the higher others, eyes peeping in corners
where ghosts remember the times I did not know
how to occupy a space, as they say,
or the jagged tear from a bolt of lightning
when it strikes from behind the eye
down to where the heart sits in its sack,
the cold rhythm of my poor old mother,
as she said of herself, come see about me,
your poor old mother, and then the crack
into the heart and the thousand revelations
of what I feel, the challenge to truth,
and I must honor myself, I have been pierced
in every opening there is to me,
had the soul's itchy gravel spread all over
the accoutrements of being an old colored man,
a Negro, a black man, an African American,
too many syllables, as Ms. Brooks did say,
when black is the correct upending
of a conundrum that brings the matter
here and not there <> what do I feel
in the space of the mind, this stupid awareness
of breath and light <> how do I pronounce
the fear of my own self, a fine ignominious
fact that needs a hammer and dynamite
after all the asking, until one day
the heart's door opens, and a woman pale
as death offers a key <> I close
my eyes to final illusions, in the darkness
the Mother appears, one with the black cloak
of the heart melding with the mind's stupidity
asking what is this thing, this apparition,
this absence of all things that make fear <>
it is Your name, decreased to negative exponents
of need, and I am what I see, light my mama
showed me in all her poor charity of words.


If you are reading me on a hand held device
feminist allies call the penis-sized distraction,
there is an electron in you now that I made
inside of me, a speck you cannot see that connects
with like specks and makes sparks in your brain
circuitry to investigate your reading habits, which
hand you use to brush your teeth, the last overdraft
made on your partner's account by guess who,
not a stranger, not an inimitable champion chump
who thinks I should not have polysyllabic modifiers
in my lines, because there are subjunctive stations
in this national train system that have thousands
of little men checking your license to be rude
and ambitious, to ignore the lessons of the oil
embargo (and you thought he would type crisis)
no, the embargo that wrapped lines of drivers
around corners in fistfights when forty-somethings
were playing with Lego blocks, the shortage,
ignore the rippling intersections of technology
with world overpopulation, and a google people
will find this moment you are having now to see
what is wrong with you, why you do not listen
to the prophecies as they come now, from
the non- entitled utility of being off the rocker
but onto you, relentless, filling you with raucous
abdominal gas to shoot you to the moon with
vinegary amore, the kind you see in la luna
when it is full and you cannot deny multiples
of me being pounded out by poets who care
about you and just want these few minutes
of your time to let you know the world is on fire.