Yesterday a little girl got slapped to death by her daddy, out of work, alcoholic, and estranged two towns down river. America, it's hard to get your attention politely. America, the beautiful night is about to blow up and the cop who brought the man down with a shot to the chops is shaking hands, dribbling chaw across his sweaty shirt, and pointing cars across the courthouse grass to park. It's the Big One one more time, July the 4th, our country's perfect holiday, so direct a metaphor for war, we shoot off bombs, launch rockets from Drano cans, spray the streets and neighbors' yards with the machine-gun crack of fireworks, with rebel yells and beer. In short, we celebrate. It's hard to believe. But so help the soul of Thomas Paine, the entire county must be here--the acned faces of neglect, the halter-tops and ties, the bellies, badges, beehives, jacked-up cowboy boots, yes, the back-up singers of democracy all gathered to brighten in unambiguous delight when we attack the calm and pointless sky. With terrifying vigor the whistle-stop across the river will lob its smaller arsenal halfway back again. Some may be moved to tears. We'll clean up fast, drive home slow, and tomorrow get back to work, those of us with jobs, convicting the others in the back rooms of our courts and malls--yet what will be left of that one poor child, veteran of no war but her family's own? The comfort of a welfare plot, a stalk of wilting prayers? Our fathers' dreams come true as nightmare. So the first bomb blasts and echoes through the streets and shrubs: red, white, and blue sparks shower down, a plague of patriotic bugs. Our thousand eyeballs burn aglow like punks. America, I'd swear I don't believe in you, but here I am, and here you are, and here we stand again, agape.
David Baker - 1954-
1. Such pleasure one needs to make for oneself. She has snipped the paltry forsythia to force the bloom, has cut each stem on the slant and sprinkled brown sugar in a vase, so the wintered reeds will take their water. It hurts her to do this but she does it. When are we most ourselves, and when the least? Last night, the man in the recessed doorway, homeless or searching for something, or sought— all he needed was one hand and quiet. The city around him was one small room. He leaned into the dark portal, gray shade in a door, a shadow of himself. His eyes were closed. His rhythm became him. So we have shut our eyes, as dead or as other, and held the thought of another whose pleasure is need, face over a face ... 2. It hurts her to use her hands, to hold a cup or bud or touch a thing. The doctors have turned her burning hands in their hands. The tests have shown a problem, but no cause, a neuropathology of mere touch. We have all made love in the dark, small room of such need, without shame, to our comfort, our compulsion. I know I have. She has. We have held or helped each other, sometimes watching from the doorway of a warm house where candletips of new growth light the walls, the city in likeness beyond, our hands on the swollen damp branch or bud or cup. Sometimes we are most ourselves when we are least, or hurt, or lost, face over a face—. You have, too. It's your secret, your delight. You smell the wild scent all day on your hand.