From time to time I meet the Kid
roaming from settlement to settlement
with a knife.
"Why not an automatic weapon
like other juvenile killers?"
I ask. His pressured response,
full of rehearsed and bitter private jokes,
but I gather he thought of a knife
at the time of provocation
(where fists were unthinkable, let alone
knives). It must be a knife.
"They got me after school," he chants,
"I'll get them after life."
I remind him we aren't dead.
He refuses to listen.
Has found no trace of his tormentors
but seems to assume he'll stumble across them.
Maternal types in the villages, meanwhile,
shelter and feed him.
The outdoor life seems to be doing him good …
in any case he got away from home.
Occasionally, too, I see the Punk.
Given time, he worked things out.
He divides his time between a gym, clubs,
and auto showrooms.
The last of his cohort to drive … but
there is no cohort here;
only the memory of one,
and girls, and places to take them.
"All I need, now I'm handsome."
(All local jocks and studs have been made nerds.)
He boasts about the number
of his conquests, their skills and jealousies;
the fact that they have no alternative
does not strike him as qualifying
his triumph, but as triumph.
He drums his hand on the door
of a Lamborghini,
beside a perfumed shadow, and roars away.
For my part, I work at
whatever the neighborhood Council
suggests. I have no skill
for plumbing or carpentry,
preventative health care, pacifying
three- or inspiring twelve-year-olds,
but after a month or so I pick some up.
Then on to the next.
The point isn't efficiency.
The process of heroic construction
is mostly one of repair.
Our gleaming city
is an occasional trick of light
on greed-exhausted brick,
a heavy evening mood
that is part love but mostly yearning for it.
And other people …
I try, as I always have,
One who grows faint on scaffolding
will feel my supporting arm,
a crying stranger find a sudden shoulder,
her husband a needed word.
In this world of trolley-cars and kitchens
I cook, and clang the bell
to warn the children playing three blocks ahead.
Through hot or frigid nights
of our regular seasons,
I purvey literature.
But at times, behind eyes
and the mind installed behind them,
I see another mind,
which wants only to serve
to sink in the despair of television,
and - if it senses
I do not seek release
but have found it - to murder me.
My friends are generally far away
and happy. They write and paint
the works that trickle down.
But some … well, Richard
decided the time has come
at last to find his bear,
and walked the whole North Woods but failed to do so,
and blames me.
Jim has become as alarmingly young as his women.
Anne has begun to preach
to my good comrades here;
she thinks it's dreadful that they aren't free.
Because she is, they do not hear her.
Beyond the town, between the villages,
the land rises in waves
of mountains and returning trees.
Death too seems more
a matter of space than time, here:
a place, thick-walled and heavy-eaved,
wherein sits the old sage
from old etchings,
who looks by damaged light into a book.
It changes when you approach it.
It contains savage truths.