And when they bombed other people’s houses, we
but not enough, we opposed them but not
enough. I was
in my bed, around my bed America
was falling: invisible house by invisible house by invisible house.
I took a chair outside and watched the sun.
In the sixth month
of a disastrous reign in the house of money
in the street of money in the city of money in the country of money,
our great country of money, we (forgive us)
lived happily during the war.
Our country is the stage.
When soldiers march into town, public assemblies are officially prohibited. But today, neighbors flock to the piano music from Sonya and Alfonso’s puppet show in Central Square. Some of us have climbed up into trees, others hide behind benches and telegraph poles.
When Petya, the deaf boy in the front row, sneezes, the sergeant puppet collapses, shrieking. He stands up again, snorts, shakes his fist at the laughing audience.
An army jeep swerves into the square, disgorging its own Sergeant.
Disperse immediately! the puppet mimics in a wooden falsetto.
Everyone freezes except Petya, who keeps giggling. Someone claps a hand over his mouth. The Sergeant turns toward the boy, raising his finger.
You! the puppet raises a finger.
Sonya watches her puppet, the puppet watches the Sergeant, the Sergeant watches Sonya and Alfonso, but the rest of us watch Petya lean back, gather all the spit in his throat, and launch it at the Sergeant.
The sound we do not hear lifts the gulls off the water.
They shove Sonya into the army jeep
one morning, one morning, one morning in May, one dime-bright morning—
they shove her
and she zigzags and turns and trips in silence
which is a soul’s noise.
Sonya, who once said, On the day of my arrest I will be playing piano.
We watch four men
and we think we see hundreds of old pianos forming a bridge
from Arlemovsk to Tedna Street, and she
waits at each piano—
and what remains of her is
that speaks with its fingers,
what remains of a puppet is this woman, what remains
of her (they took you, Sonya)—the voice we cannot hear—is the clearest voice.
Such is the story made of stubbornness and a little air—
a story signed by those who danced wordless before God.
Who whirled and leapt. Giving voice to consonants that rise
with no protection but each other’s ears.
We are on our bellies in this quiet, Lord.
Let us wash our faces in the wind and forget the strict shapes of affection.
Let the pregnant woman hold something of clay in her hand.
She believes in God, yes, but also in the mothers
of her country who take off their shoes
and walk. Their footsteps erase our syntax.
Let her man kneel on the roof, clearing his throat
(for the secret of patience is his wife’s patience).
He who loves roofs, tonight and tonight, making love to her and to her forgetting,
let them borrow the light from the blind.
There will be evidence, there will be evidence.
While helicopters bomb the streets, whatever they will open, will open.
What is silence? Something of the sky in us.
Inhabitant of earth for forty something years
I once myself in a peaceful country. I watch neighbors open
their phones to watch
a cop demanding a man’s driver’s license. When a man reaches for his wallet, the cop
shoots. Into the car window. Shoots.
It is a peaceful country.
We pocket our phones and go.
To the dentist,
to buy shampoo,
pick up the children from school,
Ours is a country in which a boy shot by police lies on the pavement
We see in his open mouth
of the whole nation.
We watch. Watch
The body of a boy lies on the pavement exactly like the body of a boy.
It is a peaceful country.
And it clips our citizens’ bodies
effortlessly, the way the President’s wife trims her toenails.
All of us
still have to do the hard work of dentist appointments,
of remembering to make
a summer salad: basil, tomatoes, it is a joy, tomatoes, add a little salt.
This is a time of peace.
I do not hear gunshots,
but watch birds splash over the backyards of the suburbs. How bright is the sky
as the avenue spins on its axis.
How bright is the sky (forgive me) how bright.