That a potholed street in the middling borough of Collingswood, New Jersey, bears the name Atlantic, after an all-consuming body of water.
That all-consuming is Atlas’ curse to bear the heavens on his shoulders.
That after the fall of the gods, half of the heavens is darkness.
That inside the car speeding down the street, I believe I am safe from being halved.
That “I” am not a white box, but a body of water.
That white is a pattern of boys who expect to live long enough to become men.
That some of these boys are whistling by on their bikes, and behind them, clear as a dream, welcome candles in the windows framed by blooms of vervain.
That “welcome” means I thought I was not afraid of the dark.
Since the jade scrubs of the cancer ward.
Since the florescent grid of the factory and the vista of small bones in my father’s collar while I was interpreting for the twenty-something-year-old white citizen,
“Tell your dad he can quit or I can fire him.”
Grief had already burst its cocoon; it ate him like an army of moths from the inside.
That brown men and women kept stitching jackets under the heavens of the machines.
That a moth is trapped in the car with me – it will die, but I do not want to practice florescence alone.
Like a first language bleeding hearts call, speaking truth to power.
I don’t know how they don’t know that power doesn’t care.
That watching fires go out will become a pattern.
That fire is everywhere, and therefore, cheap.
That the hole in my foundation is all-consuming and at its bottom a frangipani tree opens its yellow hands.
That POLICE ICE is printed in yellow or white on the jacket of the night.
That the night walks freely among the ranks of the sun.
That a body of water parted once like a red skirt then sealed over the armored horses of Egypt.
That Whitney Houston is a bone blasting
out the car windows.
That tonight, the night after, the night after that, for as long as the distance between god and a pothole, a moth’s flight will spell,
“They are coming for you.”
Thirty feet above the ground, in a warehouse
in the industrial outskirts
of a city we’d never lived in,
I knelt inside the near-empty container
to contemplate our nomadic misery:
mismatched chairs, kitchen appliances
older than me, baby clothes,
framed diplomas, books in a language
my father never taught me (it would
have stunted my assimilation)
and in my head, an email from my mother
that read, “we’re doomed, save what you can.”
So there I was, on the other
side of nowhere in sunny Italy… Despite
the technological changes around us,
disasters still travel in telegrams: Bankrupt. STOP.
Sorry. STOP. Homeless. STOP…
when our parents calling us
‘global citizens’ inspired great hope?
But the world proved too tribal for us
and so your suitcase shall be your only friend
while Shi Huang’s fantasy of a Godly Wall
proliferates across the planet.
Weeks ago, two cops in Catania
stung a sixteen year old boy from Darfur
with cattle-prods to impart the following lesson,
‘whatever the government says,
you’re not welcome here.’
As if one needed the reminder…
All across the boot, the green-
shirted faithful lift their pitchforks
to chase the monster of Otherness,
so don’t ask me why I love
to leave and hate returning.
(Is the answer somewhere inside this container?
It isn’t… but remember Cicero’s saying,
there’s no cure for exile except to love
every city as you would your own,
but the past is always easier… )
When I was young, I fancied
myself Indiana Jones; later,
with erudition, came realer idols:
Petrie, Schliemann, Carter, Kenyon—
but you cannot rescue history from dust—
all you save one day will crumble
in your hand. “Trash or burn the rest”
I told the warehouse worker
as we rode the forklift back to earth.
Damn whoever said
that hell was down below;
they clearly never went there.