I started to write a song about love, then I decided, No.
I've been trying to write about violence
for so long. (You were my mother; I love you more
dead. Not a day goes by when I'm not turning someone
into you.) A week of traffic jams and fog
filtered through glass, the country crumbling
in my sleep; old men in plaid jackets on the corner
drinking quart bottles of Old Milwaukee; the color black
again and again.
My first summer in Boston
a bum glanced up from tapping at the pavement with a hammer
to whisper Nigger, laughing, when I walked by.
I'd passed the age of consent, I suppose;
my body was never clean again. In Buffalo a billboard
said, "In a dream you saw a way to survive and woke up
happy," justice talking to the sidewalk on Main Street;
I thought it was talking to me, but it was just
art. (I've wronged too many mornings hallucinating
your voice, too drunk with sleep to understand
I can see through a history of heart attacks in two-room
tenement apartments, writing your silted name
on snow with which the lake effect shrouds
a half-abandoned rust belt city. (I've compared you
to snow's unlikely predicates, the moon's
faceless occupation. Some drift
always takes your place.) I was just
scribbling again. Take it from me, my stereo claims, some day
we'll all be free. If anyone should ever write that song.
The finely sifted light falls down.