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.

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Night Poem XV

I turn my back and laugh
at the corpse of the day
with a knife in his back,
a smile on his face.
Around him,

the eunuchs of my memory
slumped and lifeless;
they tried to pin the deed on me.
I have no time for these stragglers,

their parrot-like recriminations
that keep me here
in the sun’s dead temples.
There are thunderstorms,

horizon devouring winds,
that will forgive me this violence;
they ready me for a pure and
uncompromising shore.

It was necessary to become
the self’s inexorable assassin,
to put these enemies of my purpose to rest.
On the other side,

I will be essential dust
in no man’s night.

A Woman Guerrilla in Vietnam

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You did not make this war,
but it came to you anyway
and it has cleaved you into a woman of fury.
It was the steel men
disgorged from the bellies of their steel beasts,

who knew nothing of
the abundant tenderness of your terraced paradise,
they were the ones
who spread these black scars across the bright jungle,
and tore the villagers from their earth,
scattered their bones in the ruined dykes.
They inflicted the black scar in your youthful heart.

Once, you were the strong peasant child,
girl of the rice husk,
arms browned by the ancient years of a limpid sun,
those smooth pillars of Vietnam,
which held up the beautiful cities of Hue and Hanoi,
the poet scholars, the plaintive music of the gulf,
the ancient palaces cupped by an indulgent flower.

Now, you have the steeled body of the warrior,
and your strong arms have learned to
wield their own iron righteousness.
The jungle is your skin and the enemy cannot see you,

nor does he reckon with the violence of
your threatened womb.
You will avenge the child, the child not yet born,
the hope of your Vietnam.

Death of a Child

Gone,
probably too soon,
though we can’t be sure.
Statisticians mark you off
on a sheet between two dissecting lines.
Between two dissecting lines
he held you,
while his giant hands of flame
went to work.
Only moments before
you had been dancing
around the kitchen,
around the garden,
around the endless hours of your brief childhood.
What do we know,
we the well brought up,
of the secret language you shared
with the other breakable things
of this world?
Large men who assassinate themselves
over and over
with a disenchanted knife,
smear childhood across the walls.
Crumple of young years
in a pile of dirty clothes,
and a terrible innocence
that claws at the survivors.
Somewhere, a brief and sharp cry,
an accustomed outrage.
Somewhere, a statistician duly records.

Nineteen Fourteen

1914 was a gorgeous year.

God out did himself.

It was a summer fit for

ennui, revelry,

jaunts in motorcars

along the Cote d’Azur,

the Dover cliffs,

the Austrian Alps.

And the nights,

they were sprinkled

with the laden scent of lavender,

the sound of drunken songs

on the Unter den Linden.

1913 had been awful by comparison,

rained all summer,

and the people,

cooped up inside,

played quoits

or listened to the stiff phonograph

squeaking out Caruso.

But 1914 was splendid,

with balls and picnics

and plenty of love-making

that June and July.

And the fields of Flanders

bloomed with a million poppies,

bloodshot,

like the revelers

who stumbled into them,

drowning,

waking up to a hangover.

Copyright 2014 Ricky Barrow

The Least Savory Thing

It’s the least savory thing in us,

but it’s there,

like the bulge in the man’s side,

and every now and then,

we have to do something terrible

to assuage it.

In the centuries of the human midden

it recurs over and over,

a layer of ash

piled with more skeletons,

more steel than usual.

Bones of the folk in the market place,

who were roused by the cloaked men

speaking the fiery will of god.

Bones of the armed boys.

Bones of the mounted horses.

Battle axes plunged into heads;

brains and spent genitals

groping in the wet earth.

Bones of the women

who, on the morrow of the genocide,

went to the still tormented fields

to gather the rings and the teeth

of their dead men.

The ash of historical facts

piles up in books and universities

and at the end of stale bus tours,

and we sift through it,

still learning nothing,

still powerless to appease

the bulge in the side,

or the bones splitting in the

yawning fields,

groaning for satisfaction.

 

 

Copyright 2014 Ricky Barrow