Beautiful Throat

Beheadings, slaughter of the innocents, suffering
and sorrow say all the stabbed, ecstatic art
of the museums and more of the same
says the news, the glowing, after glowing now
what, but also in the crowded galleries babies held
by mothers looking at babies being artfully held
in the celestial rain, the fat buttery ones, part putto,
part lard who appear ready to slip from mother’s arms
out of the frame into smoke and storm, the non-art part
of the world, that disobedient, expensive part
like a furious sea you paid to cross in an inflatable
plastic raft, a child’s toy in a bath it looks like
from America where we have no fate
we can’t make. Fate is guns and money
swamping the stars. Fate is the bewitched mixture
of fuel with sea water that incinerates the self.
Fate is the decree of childhood evaporating into
unauthorized space where the I/you is so much
questioning and answering non-art. In art
I see the gold leaf, the gashes, the beautiful throats
and hear the trauma arias of martyrdom
that are the same in non-art deserts and cities.
There are two schools: one that sings
the sheen and hues, the necessary pigments
and frankincense while the world dries
and the other voice like water that seeks
to saturate, erode, and boil. It can’t be handled.
It can’t be marble. It wants to pool and rise
and rain and soak the root systems. It ruins
everything you have ever saved.

More by Bruce Smith

Untitled [I closed the book and changed my life]

I closed the book and changed my life and changed my life and changed my life and one more change and I was back here looking up at a blue sky with russets and the World was hypnotic but it wasn't great. I wanted more range, maybe, more bliss, I didn't know about bliss. Is bliss just a rant about the size of the bowl? The trance was the true thing, no, the rant, no, the sky, now, that icy whiteness.

What Are They Doing in the Next Room

Are they unmaking everything?
Are they tuning the world sitar?
Are they taking an ice pick to being?
Are they enduring freedom in Kandahar?

Sounds, at this distance, like field hollers,
sounds like they’ll be needing CPR.
Sounds like the old complaint of love and dollars.
Sounds like when Coltrane met Ravi Shankar

and the raga met the rag and hearing
became different and you needed CPR
after listening and tearing was tearing
and love was a binary star—

distant bodies eclipsing each other
with versions of gravity and light.
Sounds like someone’s trying to smother
the other—a homicide or a wedding night.

The television derives the half-full hours.
Time exists as mostly what’s to come.
Losing also is ours…
I meant that as a question.

Is I the insomniac’s question?
Are you a dendrite or a dream?
Between oblivion and affection,
which one is fear and which protection?

Are they transitive or in?
Are they process or product?
Are they peeling off the skin?
Are they Paris or the abducted?

They’re reading something after Joyce,
post modern stuff that can be read
but not understood except as voices
rising and falling from the dead.

Do they invent me
as I invent their faces?
I see surveillance gray wasted
with bliss at having thieved identities.

In the AM, when turns to usted,
the sun clocks in to overwrite the night
with hues and saturations and the red
hesitates for a second to be incarnate.

Garden

I walked in the romantic garden and I walked
in the garden of ruin. I walked in the green-skinned,
black-skinned garden of Osiris who was ripped to pieces
and reformed and adored. I walked in that wet,
incestuous plot. Am I the only one who reads
for innocence? I walked in the garden of Amadou Diallo
whose shadow was punctured by unnumbered shafts
of light leading from West Africa to America where wallets
are guns. The chirp you heard in the garden as of two black
holes merging is what we called the soul. And when we cup
our hands to drink at his fountain we make the shape
of his skull. Am I the only one who reads for thirst?
I walked in the gardens of Houston where anole lizards
took their colors at the borders between terror and wonder,
dread and leafy glade, between silence and Sinatra.
I walked in Pope’s garden in Twickenham that rhymed
wilderness and picturesque, walled in and out the stunted
self. In the garden of ruin new growth from the palms
I read as artful, neutral. In the romantic garden the fascists
sing I love you, I love you not. Statues in the gardens
are wrapped in Mylar blankets and blue plastic tarps
like refugees. I read them for reflection. I read for nation.
I read for color and form. In the orangery of Guantanamo,
in the grapevine of Babylon, I’m lost. I went there for the buzz,
the fiction of silence and a better self. Dressed sentimentally
in a dynamite suit in the garden of dates and pomegranates,
I read for patterns of the blast.