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.
Why Not Say
What happened. This terrible breaking, this blow. Then slow
the dogwood strewn like tissue along the black road.
No the busy pollinators the breeze in the pine shadows
in the aftermath where I drove back there. And two bones
of smoke lifting ahead along the shoulder in the high new
green weed-bank running beside the asphalt. No
I had come from my father. Nothing more common nothing more
than such. I could not breathe for the longest time
over and again. There was something deadly, she said, in it.
Of the genus buteo, as b. harlani, as Harlan’s red-tail.
Blocky in shape, goes the book, blood or brick-red but white
I am sure underneath, white along its wing, which was not smoke
but rising now one bird. I was coming back and couldn’t breathe
and him bruised torn bedridden tubed taken to the brink
by his body and carried aloft. There he had fallen.
This is what happened said the medical team. Fallen:
and ripped aortal stenosis in the process of their repair.
No the white bird strained, as trying to lift, to a slight
dihedral, the deepest deliberate wing beats, and barely
above the snow-white-lipped grasses and the shoulder
until I thought I would hit it. It happened or
it did not, in the way of my thinking. And now why
I saw. Two lengths of snake helical and alive in the talons
heavy there, writhing, so the big bird strained for the length
of time that it takes. Like the oiled inner organs
of a live thing heaving in shreds, the dogwoods
the doctors, and did I say the horrible winds all before.
Now the air after storm. The old road empty. Swept white,
by blossoms by headlights, my father hovering still:
why it flew so close, why it was so terribly slow.
I think I hoped it would tear me to pieces. Lift me,
of my genus helpless, as wretched. And drop me away.
I turned back to the animal. No it turned its back to me.