Smoke Signals, Waco, 1993

by Jay D. Smith
Small wisps at first, then all at once, a note:
the prairie skyline’s filled, like blood in a syringe.
The darkened smoke will tell you, Waco’s found no pope:
the pope has found them.
And then silence—the flame’s herbaceous hour
tilted up like a trumpet’s bell, a shofar calling to life
where life won’t seem to end. Smoke in the tower,
and its loyal people caught
in the black serpent folds of accident.
North of Waco, God’s the other country. The one that built
a wall out of cheap concrete, and sold weapons
on the side, because prayer entails price.
Surely, there are some parts that were nice.
The unreality of love, the sisterly rows of double-beds.
Beyond the armored tanks, a swimming pool they poured
in ’92. The bible-man who visited
his progeny each night. No one knows who shot.
As in a parable, one letter obscureth the other. Two signals
branch like honeysuckle vine. One day, a child inside
will ask who or what
begat whom, when all that’s left to burn is words.
Interpretable vision—censer, altar, star—the lonely, or sure
tongue of ecstasy, scrawling its vatic lore, as if the air
could listen—and suffering make clear.