Jonestown on Ice
The show goes on. The cast streams in from Broadway
tapping asphalt and step through wide stage doors
where razor skates await them, orange as Kool-Aid.
Don Harris is taking notes for future
broadcast. Congressman Ryan shields his eyes
from the glare. That’s the signal for gunfire,
for the Cessna descending from the lights
pocked with holes and oozing with pastel flare.
Waves of skaters swoon in their cyanide
dance. Barrack to air strip, their figure-eights
merge to ellipse, to a woozy O on ice
around a man in sunglasses saying
time. They’re coming for us. And we stream
out with them, to the new planet of a street.
The Street Ends, 1960
The cul-de-sac leads down
over the last wild yards
of the hill to Fox
and Thrifty and L.A.
driving off in three
on one high roof, Chester
waves across the air above parked cars
to the safe street.
Later in this dark garage
he'll show Louise his dick,
envying her tears.
The house will grow bars
over each window, natural
as night coming,
as blacks moving here
and there and stores closing fast,
natural as night.
When Linda Knapp finally
gets in a stranger's car
and glides away,
the city fences oleander
thick with hiding,
all the steps down
to asphalt and bustle.
No way there from here.
Jackie couldn't, if he
wanted to, recreate the walk
he took on Grandma's errand
as the market's electric
door, the Examiner shouting
DEAD. He knew it was bad
but didn't feel it
much. He knew it was worth
going back to the green
house on that street
and telling her, if only
to be bearing news
from a real world
opened up now, hurting in ways
too hard still to guess at.
Up to Springhill Place,
two steps at a time,
the last wild grass in Los Angeles
rushes into its own
This is the last time
he comes home as rich
and empty-handed with death.
The End of the Trail
A Postcard from Wyoming
As in the Upanishads, a vulture
one limb away watches a vulture watch.
Shouts come up from the ground. Blood pours every
which way. Across the dying foot, the page
of scripture, wind lugs the first note a flute
made a thousand years ago. Jets pass over,
flies watch other flies. Under the hand’s dead
nail, a star pulls into its moon, the whole
earth shifting on its axis toward that new life.
The time his grandfather shook Truman’s hand,
he called him Harry in front of the whole
room, and could not free his feet from the hole
they were in, his eyes from one stare, his hand
until he thought to say Mr. President.
This could not happen when he met Bob Hope
or Floyd Patterson--the boy in him came out
to shame the man. It was all he could do to stand
in front of those usually quiet few
who suck the light from every direction,
breath from anyone who talks, whatever
we call the self suddenly postponed, a coup
in the works that finally takes over
the dark, frequently invincible nation.
That morning finally comes when frost
does in both mosquito and wasp,
wilting the basil
all along the wall,
then a bell--
long thought lost
over two miles away in air
thick with summer--peals in cold air
spacious with wreckage.
Did we mean Don’t change
all those ages
at the unchanging shore, those waves
saying Yes and Yes always
as we took on sun,
our skin that stiff bronze
we knew once
won’t wash away?