Another Small Apocalypse
That twenty thousand people in the early 19th century
watched twenty-three animals, including a bear, ride over
Niagara Falls in a burning mock pirate ship tells us
something about who we are.
It is either night or
ashes from some distant tragedy floating in the air.
It’s not the horror but the horror’s face we must imagine
as our own. We can’t bandage our hypnotized hearts.
We like to carve our names on rocks, in trees, as if
by this we owned them.
Excuses fill the night
like bats. This is why we need so many distractions-
twitter, Facebook, texting — anything to stop thinking.
It’s why Lot’s wife turned back to gaze at her own death.
It’s as if our souls lined up like pigeons on telephone wires.
Or that we thought a plane’s unreachable vapor trail held
our innermost secrets.
We believe in dogmas we don’t
understand. Someone wears a bomb into a mosque
and we hardly have time to mourn before the next
commercial. Our days walk by unconcerned. Night
covers up the names of the lost.
Here, we watch the owl
watching for prey. The treed opossum hangs in the tree
all night, watching, waiting for us to move on. The lake
refuses to shimmer. The lava of our lives hardens.
A few lightning bugs try to warn us. I remember someone
saying most poems only watch like old men gazing quietly
at the tide. Even our memories seem like retouched photographs.
Our words hang ill-fitting in the closet.
There are still
nine thousand unidentified bones from 9/11.
If you listen closely
you can hear this poem trying to find a way out of these
nightmares. I write this on a moonless night, the birds
inexplicitly quiet, watching the onlookers gather at
the yellow tape of another murder lit by the flash of cameras.
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