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(Poems)

David Colosi

 

(published in Laughing Blood, Left Hand Books, 2004)

 

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Animal magic,
tricks of the trade,
jack of all hats,
POP! it goes,
out comes a rabbit pulling itself from a box,
tethered on a coiled spring,
held at gun point
by a furry yellow paw,
the detective becomes a victim
in the crime he investigates.

Rollerblading down subway tracks,
catching nails and gum,
snapping photographs,
the hare tracks the criminal.
Hair and blood between the rails
offer DNA,
down the brown milky river,
from below the third rail,
he pulled prints which confessed the way the rain hit:
time of day,
the refraction of the drops from the grate above
where pedestrians walk
and speak the truth
to a 1/1000th of a degree.

This takes months.
Newspapers converge,
coverage sporadic, sparse,
farcical.
TV drama unfolds
creased on the line between comedy and tragedy
(the Ancient Greeks stand proud by this division of labor).

The divine glow behind the head of the accused
rises Christian in a halo — emanations of a celebrity.
Our modern myths
are peopled by heroes with tangled tongues —
football players, congressmen, priests, and police officers—
who use the Fifth Amendment to tell their stories in silence
flaunting abstinence as the key to salvation.

The victims,
those dead and unknown-living,
wear only handcuffs,
that fit perfectly,
to no one’s surprise —
ergonomic rings
designed to match body types.

A man beaten for defending himself,
formally referred to as “resisting arrest;”
wallets and Three Musketeers Bars
like magnets
scare the life out of
bullets — which race —
toward their presupposed targets.
A profile
shot in the dark
reveals a face to the flashlight.

Power looks in its closet of disguises
asking the attorney if class, gender, or race suits better
the undergarments of fame.
Legally bound,
the attorney begins dressing the client
first with duct tape over the truth.
“There’s so much more to gain than truth.”

The rabbit pops his head up from a hole
and sees everything in kaleidoscopic vision.
A golf club swipes as the ears duck below the green
with envy
the grass is pretty from the other side.

The top two drawers
of the bureau
of investigations
contain, folded and ironed,
tenured members of the police and the court.
Criminals found buried in the uniforms,
signed salary checks
from pens emptied in the pockets,
notarizing more acquittals on the account of blue skin.

Cracking the penal code
is a lottery hit:
scratch a wound on your emotional credit rating
and win,
like Gen-Xing complaints
for reparations
because the wine in the Fruit Loops is fermented.

Decadence delivered forty acres and a mule
to the criminal,
the victim cracked over the skull again.
Gil Scott Heron muses in the background:
“Who’ll pay reparations on my soul?”

Neither poems nor therapy
can remedy the malady.
Insanity lies lasting in the ditch,
psychoanalysis in on the joke,
forming a plea bargain
for hospital over jail time.

“A nuisance,” smells the rabbit,
confounded by trust,
beguiled by wit,
absorbed in the fantastical.

Fanciful excuses of unicorns,
sequined and cliched,
“And Justice For All”
incites the machete to perform.
We cut the horn with a swing from the elbow,
(horses fit better under our hips)
like in Medieval tapestries,
which dangle tattered in armories of preservation
representing dogs as mythical symbols
licking the blame for bloodthirsty man.
These words could strike this page
with the force of sledgehammers
beating harmonic rhythms
on craniums lined as steel drums.

I could resort to alphabetic collage,
we could waste moments throughout the day
calculating bundles of information.
Instead we read,
canceling our former passing whimsy
for serial procrastination.
A previous faint tickle
passes as abstraction.

I insult the nature of communication,
threaten freedom gulping germs in capsules of nonsense.
Contagious silence ignores
the Vitamin C, Zinc, and Echinacea
supplied on the shelf.

I writhe,
wriggling in the corner of your eye,
you turn your peripheral vision out of focus.
My right to assume your corroboration
falls wailing to the earth
salted and droopy,
humming like a slug.

My perspective:
I’ve never been arrested,
but I read the New York Times.
My words mean nothing,
I am a child from the 60’s
natured on sitcoms,
nurtured by Eyewitness News.
When you find me in my room I’m moving,
dancing to the rhythm on my own stage.
I’m a Karaoke superstar
who signs autographs for bank tellers,
throws his shirt to Laundromat workers,
thanks his relatives and friends for fanning him into stardom
who at the end of the day is
forgotten at the job.
Sentence failure,
cadaver ruptured,
bloated and popped from a cigar lit by a candle,
smoked between the buck teeth of the rabbit.

“Boss says ain’t no need to solve this.
Caper’s kinda shallow,
couldn’t hollow it out by the end of the day,
tomorrow’s newspaper’s already printed, why bother.”

Ink stains the knife.
Blood scribes new headlines,
announcing “Who’s next?”
The victim struck in the back with a nightstick.

A gruesome murder below,
evidence of decay,
buried in litigious pollution.
A truck drives fast
passing out brochures of regret.
Bumper stickers cover the rear:
“The truth is your best offense.”

A carpenter builds a narrative
from the hardware of justice,
the tools of Law: 
language of privileged
access to the back
of the front door,
the rabbit exits smiling
blinded by the light
thanks to attorneys who confused the case with rhetoric.

“I couldn’t have done it alone.”

He nibbles on the thin line of monofilament
which spools from the collective briefcase.

Crime is a collaboration
which starts in the street,
like an artist emptying his neuroses
on sheets of paper
to be sold at Sotheby’s for $1.6 million
he’ll never see.

The supreme court
misspells the letters of the law
building a partial wall.
Yet the jury is still out, like escaped goats,
wearing the burden of jargon on their twelve angry shoulders.
The guilt of the final word,
whispered like blades of grass stuffed in their mouths,
provides compensation for practicing hegemony.

Distant illusions of Euro forefathers
told us to seek the One.
When only sides remained
we found the dialectic sitting anxious
on the shelves of the Salvation Army.
Diversity, in turn,
unites the city
by fabricating an army.

A rabbit,
overfed with carrots and wine,
belches at the base of a tree:
“I’ve got time.
There’s still time.”

The victim slides into the murky lake,
and the killer takes the stage
built from a billion 200 sq. ft. islands
housing 15” - 21” screens
projecting images of intrigue on the lives of the living.

A murder victim gets little air time,
killers always appear on the evening news
(only the really good ones destroy our days)
wearing the ill-fitting rights of the dead,
signed away,
traded-in freedom of life
for a five-minute dedication
honored only by friends that will cry on camera.
The others stand off
defending the murderer’s right to a fair trial
with popcorn and guffaws.
Corpses have only wrongs left to fight for
(personhood looted in the last breath).

The victim, clubbed in the chest,
coughs up blood.

Silence kills,
death whispers audible words ignored.
A whistle keeps time
for tragic lullabies
tricked into considering loss a happy ending.

Lawyers accumulate crimes
digging through the scattered clues
the confession appears,
after the case,
the one the attorney
coached the defendant to hide.

The rabbit, stoic and arrogant, presses a sense of justice.
Celery spits out below the nervous nose.

The fist hurts too much
from smacking the wall.
“I’m in the chasm
collecting the blood of realism.”

He follows a paper trail
like a forensic folk tale
of littered paychecks in the judicial branch.
A prince wipes bloody footprints from stepping stones.
Secret Service agents,
dressed as thick woodcutters,
expose the trembling hare below a desk.

Dis-eased into frantic worry,
an ulcer grows in the urn.

“Why make this difficult?
Talk to the nurse, consent to the polygraph,
and give us a few more quarts of those fluids.
We could make a profit on E-Bay.”

Intimidation waivers the wrist,
the trigger dangles in the nervous paw,
ignoring the target for embarrassment.

“Steam it, bake it, broil it,
back in the hat it came from, red hot!”

“Ok, ok, I’m out of my league,
you’s guys are the bestest.
What’s the plan?
Where’s the paaaty?
You win.”

So as to not make him a martyr,
let him live with his father
in a trailer park west of Dallas
spinning jazz on 78s,
down to 45 rpm because gramophones don’t grow religious.

Maybe he’ll kill himself by
tying knots in shawls and doilies.

Here a rabbit could harbor his ideals
for an acting job,
pretending to be alive.

“I’ll take it,
whatever you say,
just, hey, let go of my ears.
They’re genuine.”

On the greasy platform
gum stuck to the fur
pulling clues from the concrete.
Peppermint burned, tucked
under the eyelid —
from here we make contact.
Hare, parted to the side.

On the evening news
nothing happens until some bodies buy something.
We could purchase a corpse for the sake of progress.
Falsity falls from the city, offering pity on the pedestrian.
We have no sympathy for a death by right of way.
A hand signal in a crosswalk
flips the bird to a traffic cop.

In the coroner’s office
she cracks her knuckles and tears open the corpse.
Contact lenses protect shards of broken eyes.
A microscope shatters in the distance.
Vision blurs the sunset.

The mirror hangs on a wall,
by a fire,
crooked and dangling.

Loud as it’s been around here,
I can’t remember hearing myself offer praise.
A gun fires outside my window.
I’ll be dead on another day.

A “yes” had bedazzled and bemused,
started a love affair that married a planet,
all from the top of a ladder.
Praise found
in scientific experiments
to weigh less than criticism.
Finding a ‘yes’ always involves climbing
while 'no'-s spit out nostrils
littering the streets
in slippery contradictions.
We found one
bleeding on the steps of the Dakota.

For the rest of us:
A killer’s body more valuable than the victim’s,
honored by the gift of voice.
Freedom to a fair trial
costs a lot of money.
Fairness is a fiction
friction by those who paid to learn.
Economic and cultural capital
run wild looting sprees in the malls of generosity.

“Vote for me, he cries!
I have not even been framed! 
My work is more important than a whore!”

“They found some body parts in a park, Senator,
that you must have tripped over jogging on your way to a promotion.”

How many vacant seats remain
next to Martin Luther King, Jr., John F. Kennedy,
Gandhi, John Lennon, Malcolm X...
(Princess Died,
executed by paparazzi,
hired by...)?

How many seats next to
Nicole Brown Simpson, Ronald Goldman, and Chandra Levy —
famous for being forgotten?

How many next to Rodney King, Amadou Diallo, and Abner Louima
(who simply blend into a crowd of invisible men
that swung from ropes,
trailed behind trucks,
and swelled well before the days of video
((and of nameless women whom
masters keyholed in to the square footage
of the womb they paid property tax on))
before the lists cared about etching names
into mourners’ memorials)?

How many yards could a running back run if a running back could run back
centuries to make up for unpunished white guilt?

How many crimes will it take
for a corrupt cop’s partner
to look beneath his blue skin
and hand over a badge number?
Brotherhood is a tight lip
like a priest who has abandoned his religion
in order to keep his job:
“There are so many good ones,
why send the wrong message by punishing the few bad ones?”

Silence weeps in the corridors.

Beyond a shadow of a doubt
master planners have
concocted schemes to utilize the law,
confusion of confessions
and silenced testimony,
framing criminals as innocent
and victims guilty.

Ah, but remember how domestic racism vanished
when we found terrorists
that looked like Timothy McVeigh!
Ameriplexion got a face-lift
when White became a race, too.
Or did we only cauterize him
with electricity
to wipe out the exception to the rule?

‘National Security,’
overwrites the palimpsest
etching its name deep in the dictionary:
“Racism is a weapon in the military arsenal.”
Protection is a lacy shield
filtering the policy of the politically wealthy:
I am terrorized in my home.

Man, in his noble uniqueness,
by his ability to reason,
and to laugh,
alone among the beasts,
can invent God to justify war.

A poet got arrested for writing:
“I have a bomb attached to my heart,”
having misspelled ‘tomb’.

A phone rings.
The caller, watching the evening news,
having dialed 911,
asks anyone, anyone at all, who answers:
“Now that we’ve forgotten where the victim is buried
is there any real estate available?
Would it be too much trouble for you to call me the next time someone dies?
I’d like to get a jump on the apartment.”
A comic rabbit
crumbling in a tragic wasteland
mumbled on the other end of the line,
“Silence has gotten pretty loud ’round these parts,”
before power,
eavesdropping on the wire tap,
took the plunge
and split its gut.


 

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