The Music Stopped

The sky fell.
We danced.
The trains derailed.
We danced.
The ocean liners vanished
And the wounded sea
Never returned to port.
We danced.
We danced.
The desperadoes breached the walls.
The squares echoed with the
Savage boots of night.
The bodies smiled
From the lampposts.
And the city,
Giddy, buxom, pretty,
Hopped into bed with the sadist,
And drunk his wine,
And tweaked his beard.
We danced.
We danced
Through the flag-strangled streets,
And the flung open gates
To the terrible camps.
We danced
With blackened soles.
With shards in our heels,
We danced
And stopped believing
In God, in dreams,
In music.

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Time Gets Drunk

Time whispers get me drunk.
The hours are like rooms,
I circle endlessly,
And the doors open only once,
And go nowhere.
Get me drunk, cries time,
Toss all the clocks in the woodshed,
Cuff all the outlawed watches’ hands,
Take the grandfather clock off life-support.
Sighs time,
I want dawns without sunrises,
Afternoons without teatime.
I want chaotic birdsong
To keep us awake at night,
The morning newspapers to never arrive,
The trains to wait in the station
Indefinitely.
I want confused crowds milling
In every city,
Waiting for the doors to open,
The elevators to rise,
The truant day to let them in,
Waiting until boredom dies,
Until the parks, at last, have filled with lovers.
Drunk time slurs the hours
The minutes
The beginnings and the ends.
With each bottle,
The knots in the universe unravel.

A black blackening
Stirs in the brain of the man.
It is the hatred
He bears for other brain-burdened men

Like himself.
His lips peel back comically
To reveal an impeccable row
Of bristling ships.

Dreadful sounds jam in his mouth
For a moment,
And a shudder runs through the city.
His bones rattle like rusty sabres,

His sockets eat his eyes
As he strikes his political enemy to death.

A bull is loose in the well-arranged streets,
He is knocking over the statues
Of the dead generalissimos,
He is goring the beautiful mannequins,

He is tearing open their dresses,
He is violating their navels.

The streets are now a disarray of fallen hyacinths,
And the man and the bull have
Taken over my city.
Tonight I will mourn ten thousand cats,
I will begin to bury the massacred flags.

Bust of Camille

156d51746ce1d6b3e1ded8b919b015e9.jpg

I am exhausted, can’t you see it,
How my eyes are so ripe with lassitude,

And you call them beautiful.

What is yet unborn wells up in me
And disturbs the symmetry of my charm.

And you say I have become so secretive,
But what could I now say?

The things that I fashion grow so frightening,

And speak on my behalf with
Distorted mouths.

And see my hand,
What you once so fondly called

The coil of my creation,
how monstrous it has grown,

And it already shapes my famed madness,
And it is as though I was no more than hand,

Brutal instrument of my genius
That would one day smother us.

But then you remember my lips,
Which have always been so childlike,

Fragile,

A sensuality wholly reserved for me alone
And waiting to break.

The Burghers of Calais

The-Burghers-of-Calais

Some with eyes of bold acceptance
Of impending horrors
That cancel others.
And this one turning back,

With open pleading mouth
To the city that
Already goes about its daily business,
And hears the hawkers in the streets,
And sees the watchmen at the wall.

And this one with grim determined cheeks,
Gazing straight ahead
At the arrayed captors,
While the condemned hour
Dances on his lips

And he almost smiles.
And at last, the key holder,
In the centre,
around whom the others
Revolve like abandoned stars,

His head bowed with the weight
Of the sacredness of his death,
While it is not despair, but
Release
That floats across his gaunt face.

That the city may be saved,
These five must go away.
And so, like one without a homeland,
Whose body is no longer chained

To anything,
His feet move toward the open field
As though they were
Of another’s volition,

And how light,
How pleasant the wet grass
As he gazes into immense distances,

Eyes filled with reverence,
Far beyond the bristling soldiers
And the walls of the surrendered city.

A Broken Sun

You must understand
That it is easier than you think
To commit acts of evil.

Take myself for instance.
In medical school I dreamed of
Becoming a doctor
Among villagers in the remote mountains

Of Japan,
Such simple folk who
Lacked adequate access to
The marvels of modern medicine.

But then the war,
And China.
How can I put it?
I lost this ability
To imagine a softer world.

The strict, enforced obedience
To the leviathan of flame,
The soul-rotting acceptance
That this world was alight,
And life was the fuel.

And then, my own chosen profession,
As one who deals with the body
Like an instrument to be fixed,

Somehow this too inured me
To the obscenity of pulling
Apart humans for the sake of
My nation’s science.

The rot had set into the living,
Into those of us charged with
Ameliorating ancient suffering.
We told ourselves,

In dissecting our enemies
We were completing a noble quest,
To cure the bodies that mattered,
Our own, of tragic diseases.

At first, I will admit,
I felt squeamish,
Hands trembling as I cut open
Some poor soul, un-anesthetized,

His pleading, pitiful cries
That turned guttural at the sight
Of his own insides.
Who wouldn’t be shaken?
I was still human then,
Even after all I had seen.

But after two, then three, then four
Vivisections,
My hand became steady,
As cold and precise as the instruments

It clasped.
Had I gained some new plane of
Existence,
Was I beyond good and evil?

What, after all, was life
But the fuel for something
Incomprehensible, mysterious,
Beyond all individual pain,

Propelling us all
Into a future vaster and more
Terrible than a devouring sun?
Was I not merely an instrument
Of this god?

But then suddenly,
With blinding violence
That sun arrived,
And the grandeur was gone in an instant.

No longer a surgeon to the
Imperial Army of Japan,
To the men of steel and death,
I returned to Japan.

I set up a quiet and humble
Practice in the remote
Mountains among the villagers.
I specialised in treating the

Children of farmers,
Tuberculosis cases,
Whooping cough,
Sprained ankles.

I had a normal kind of life.
But I was no longer human,
And when I placed my stethoscope
To the chest of one of my simple hearted patients,

Even without a word,
They recoiled instinctively from my touch.