Popular History

Let’s say the wolf shows up and wants to talk shop.
There’s an ordinary latch on your door
and you answer without looking because,
after all, you’re an emancipated pig.
He’s got a short pine two by four,
historical teeth, a few trite phrases
he’s borrowed from a friend. “Okay, come in” etc.
Sympathy has long since replaced the dimples
bitten into your back like inverted teats; plus,
you’ve got money now and the wolf — he’d like to sell you
a home security system, a ride in his armored car.

But all your best refusals sag like candles;
Across the table he keeps chopping up
reasons with his paws. Something curt
is wrinkling the oranges. Something interminable
is flirting with your ears. You don’t want to listen but still,
new motives in the room start sharpening your snout.
You are another pig in another time and not the pig
you are: post-racial, post-violent, the city having built
and the building having spread to everyone. All the same,
the wolf has come a long way to see you, to hash it out
and his temper is growing short. What little purchase
you have is dainty and condescending, he says and he says
he doesn’t want your charity.

So you are riding backwards on the memory,
and your mistake, you suppose, was opening the door.
The wolf is admiring a photo over your mantle:
the Symphony playing Shostakovitch, the various ears
of the audience that seem to flicker now as your guest
suggests you light a fire with the logs on the hearth.
There is no reason to your mind he should be cold, but you oblige.
And crinkling up the paper you think how nothing
goes away, really, just for changing into smoke, just for breathing.
And nothing in the wolf, now that he’s going, will stop slavering.
And the chimney whistles low, stoking the fire you knew
would be sooner or later, the fire that were there another word for it,
you’d also say you built.

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