The World That the Shooter Left Us

- 1957-
                                                       (Stand Your Ground)
 
In this one, ladies and gentlemen,
Beware, be clear: the brown man,
 
The able lawyer, the paterfamilias,
Never makes it out of the poem alive:
 
The rash, all-too-daily report,
The out of the blue bullet
 
Blithely shatters our treasured
Legal eagle’s bones and flesh—
 
In the brusque spectacle of point-blank force,
On a crimsoned street,
 
Where a revered immigrant plummets
Over a contested parking spot,
 
And the far-seeing sages insist,
Amid strident maenads
 
Of at-the-ready patrol car sirens,
Clockwork salvos,
 
The charismatic Latino lawyer’s soul
Is banished, elsewhere, without a shred
 
Of eloquence in the matter—
And the brute, churning
 
Surfaces of the world,
They bear our beloved citizen away—
 
Which means, austere saints
And all-seeing masters,
 
If I grasp your bracing challenge:
At our lives’ most brackish hour,
 
Our highest mission isn’t just to bawl,
But to turn the soul-shaking planet
 
Of the desecrated parking lot
(The anti-miracle),
 
The blunt, irascible white man’s
Unnecessary weapon,
 
And the ruse of self-defense
Into justice-cries and ballots?
 
Into newfound pledges and particles of light?

in memory of J. Garza, 1949-2017

Return to Florence

How do I convey the shoring gold
at the core of the Florentine bells’
commingled chimes?

Vast as a suddenly revealed
field of wheat,
that up-and-away gold
is equivalent to the match-burst
morning I returned,
intent as doubting Thomas,
to my old classroom terrace,
open to the showy, blue yes
of the bustling Arno,
to my timeless, sun-laved
Basilica of Santo Spirito,
and discovered
ebullient citizens reciting,
at a hundred different posts,
the same unbetraying passage
of Dante’s Paradise.
 

Altitude

You’ve just died in my arms,
But suddenly it seems we’re eternal

Cali boys, Afro-haired cohorts in crime,
Racing through intricate lattices

Of quince and lemon tree shadows,
Corridors of Queen Anne’s lace—

On the skip-church Sunday you dubbed me
“Sir Serious” instead of Cyrus—

Then, swift as a deer’s leap, we’re devotees
Of goatees and showy Guatemalan shirts,

Intoxicated lovers for a month
On the northwest coast of Spain—

Praising the irrepressible sounds
Of a crusty Galician bagpiper

On La Coruña’s gripping finisterre,
Then gossiping and climbing

(Like the giddy Argonauts we were)
The lofty, ancient Roman lighthouse,

All the way—Keep on truckin’, we sang—
To the top of the Tower of Hercules—  

How Many Lives Have We Lived in Paris?

We’ve lived the life of an unbridled boy 
Mastering the higgledy-piggledy metro, 

Tapping the fast-moving window,
Loving the a cappella names 

Of the heralded stations:
Saint-Paul, Bastille, Gare de Lyon—

*

The life of a downtrodden clochard,  
Sly, indigent alley crone, 

Still wrestling to recover 
A long-deterred tune:  

Chevalier, dauphin, Parisian charmer,
Don’t you know I’m blue without your wink?

*

The life of a pendant, park-facing willow, 
Oh sweet, avuncular life—

*

Incarnation of a curling swan—

*

The life of an insouciant schoolgirl 
Boulevard-prancing then skipping

In the candle-pale voile of her lark-
Light Corpus Christi dress—

*

Life of a heartfelt nun whispering novenas
And bidding God’s blessèd day adieu—

*

The taciturn, time-and-again life 
Of a ringlet-haired racehorse

On a raucous kids’ carousel:
Its red-gold, undignified Sundays—  

*

Fat life of a tantalized basilica tomcat
Chasing a fly-by-night sparrow in the pews—

*

The jubilant life of a sweetheart, answering 
Yes, oh yes, I will,

Mon amour, trésor,
You can toss your hat now into the air—

Related Poems

Catechism for the Missing

     “Snow where the horse impresses itself / is solitude, a gallop of grief.” —Miguel Hernández

What use is a language
that lacks a name for hazard?

When wheat brays in an alley.

Where do you go
if you aren’t born
an adoration?

If you start the book
of brutality
you will never finish,

knowing how many
teeth go missing
every year.

A trapped animal
will tell you

how each chrysalis
necessarily entombs

a liberating force.

When water hisses in a barrel.

How many excuses
for the absence
of footprints about the body?

Even the desert
has a language

capable of uncovering
the ontology of the castaway.

Around the ocotillo,
around the narthex and dumpster,

each mouth exhales
a shrine.