Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Near Room

Now they have you where they want you, finally
Backed into a corner of sorts
Pinned by the lights
Frozen and silent
Your weapons gone
Except the one they could never see
Your eyes still open yet
That's where you are, they say
Me, I have my doubts
And how could they know
How could they see you
While calling you out of your name
When were you ever where they thought you should be
Or even were
How could you feint or tell the truth
Unless you saw something different looking at the same thing
As every one else
A butterfly must have a particular way of seeing
That serves itself, and so must a bee
For the act begins in the eye
As the refusal begins in the why
The child's often response to a senseless demand
Another child's question too soon grown out of
In despair at the answers
Children are maddening that way
And you were childlike, too, weren't you, boy?
How come you never learned like the others
That if you don't like the answers
It's the question that's at fault?
Why not answer as a child
If as a child they send you?
Like any child, you didn't like to be hit
Believing, childishly, perhaps that a world
Wherein teddy bears talk and lizards dance
And alligators blow on trumpets all the day long
And the giants that tuck you asleep
And walk with you across the creaking floor in the moonlight
Are thus sometimes gentle and sweet
Might be anything that it wishes
Until, of necessity I suppose
Your best years taken
(O what superb thievery, sd clever as your own, to steal time)
You learned to endure it
And withstood it better than the hitters
And in all their lovingkindness children still don't understand
That they must be grateful just to be brought here
They don't bow and hang their heads and speak softly
They scream, and shriek and skip across the spring
Infused with its joy as if indeed instead
The season springs from within them, as indeed it might
For we grow older as they do
Let them ridicule your verse
No poet ever said it plainer:
I ain't got no quarrel with them Vietcong
Here at last is that plain old American song
As my daddy said the same way
In logic irrefutablly a child's
When I brought home unknowingly from school that word
(That never was heard, said you, on the enemy's lips)
What did that child ever do to you?
Let those who fear, flatter; it is not an American art
These words, not mine, are no longer true
Yet neither will I condemn
Those who stood in applause for you that night in artifice's palace
You refused the war yet thereby fought their battle
As surely did any of their children they sent
(Yes, I know, even fighters embrace after the bell
But their comprehension is greater
Their pain shared
Their intentions clearer, their practice more honorable)
Thus does a country grow powerful beyond all meaning
By embracing all possibilities
Rendering its children silent
Leaving flattery the only response
Provoking, as invariably it does, reciprocal blandishments
Tribute to the speakers' breeding and manners and emptiness
As anyone who was in the ring with you will attest
A clinch can be as harmful as a jab
All that weight of feigned affection pulling on you
It's simply a matter of tactics
It isn't your book
But I'll offer these words to you just the same
(And also to those other missing two, also the fastest
Who too raised black fists inside black gloves
And bowed their heads in sorrow and pride
And barefoot supplication
Though with no assurance now that these also
Might not be seized and converted into further testament,
O debased word
Of our well-known tolerance and liberality;
By the way, when their rehabilitation is made official
You might remember their medals need returning as well)
It is indeed possible to come out of prison to reign
Even though born poor in the kingdom
Called obscure by scholars, what mystery can there be in such words?
And this also, a thing of my own though borrowed
And, too, suspect as flattery
You were the most beautiful man I ever saw
And I'll remember your eyes widening as when the ogre toppled
As if this time even you doubted what you had foreseen
And were astonished to see it come to pass
Fist cocked already even as he tumbled lest he should rise again
But the flag he waved then was white
Anyway, what cause have I to fear for you now
A bee stings at its own peril and surely lives with such knowledge
A butterfly must ride the wind
And senses the newcoming breeze as a hurricane
I don't think they laid a glove on you that night
You can't hit what you can't see
I think you were already gone
Into the near room
Where is history is not absolved
Where Allah is one, and has no associates