Poem: Us

Let us enumerate the truths that fall
hidden in the dry leaves of our deception.

We did start this fire, and we reveled in it
with the savage glee of the arsonist.
Understand: savage in this context does not mean
those noble peoples who know they live by sufferance
of dirt and stream, bee and bear.

We live by no one’s sufferance but make them suffer
and that, verily, is the mark of our civilization
which we define as civilization entire,
threaded in a bare white line
from those toppled pillars to today.

But this is not the day nor place
where goddesses wore the cityscape
on the mural crown. This torch was not lit
from the hearth-mother’s sacred dish, or
the cylindrical temple that gave the city luck.
There is a road that runs from then to now
but it’s not pieced together from cobblestones
that last a thousand years

or rather not in the way that you think of it:
Not the glory, but the slavery.
Not the viaduct but the sword.
And now, when there is nothing left to break
we close the temples and set them alight
mourning only the frippery of our losses

how we can’t get our hair cut, and someone else
needs to be considered and so we must wait
which means the weak deserve to gasp and die like fish
and the children in cages, the coughing prisoners,
the jogger in the street, the person daring us,
egging us so boldly on as they engage
in the legal activities of daily life
and so remind us of the things
we buried in the yard and the books
between the numbers and the names.

We are not noble enough for savagery
not holy enough for rats.
Wolves, who waste nothing and keep the accounts,
shun us for our profligacies

as you break us and tell me to love it or leave
while barring the door and blocking the road.
I don’t take it personally: I’m just collateral,
trying to stamp down the smoldering leaves
because I wasn’t clever enough to catch the torch


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