“A ragged urchin, aimless and alone,
Loitered about that vacancy…” — Auden
A night like this demands collage
filled with images colliding
I wonder if Cornell is even aware
I ran to Calvary upon hearing
and asked Father Pike to do it now
He did when I told him, standing
at the font the look on his face
he knew even as the news of the blast
came across the streets.
And now I am here wet still
where I first saw him
three days after my birthday
what a gift playing with it
standing behind that very trashcan
on snowy Saint Marks Place
as he wandered casually facing
Avedon all baggy both of them
Mais où sont les neiges d’antan
What quest down those Ukrainian streets?
To learn Yiddish? Perhaps to find me?
There he was in the flowing monochrome
of snow, its purposeful irony as if he
desired it into being but softly.
What killed him there in Vienna?
Was it hearing last month DJ Kool Herc
giving birth to Hip Hop?
It could not have been the news
of Roe beating Wade I think
that was music to him.
He must have been cheering all these days
while TV shouted Sam Ervin trembling
Southern accents and Jim McCord’s narrow eyes
slowly telling truth John Dean nervous
and Maureen behind him, always.
Was he disheartened by the sight of POWs
returning while bombs rained down on Cambodia?
Was it Wounded Knee?
New York City his home now
he must have been proud of
our new World Trade Center
I was there at the opening.
Did that Sears Tower tear him down?
Did he know of the first cell phone call
and was he ready to dial?
Or did none of this matter to him?
I had a choice today
to be baptized one way or another
a choice once again
as my friends
walked into a storm making it larger
seeding a cloud with their special crystals
they knew what they were about
it was vengeance
vengeance large and vengeance small
vengeance for a history of violence
vengeance for a moment of death
vengeance for a conspiracy of decades
vengeance for a man and a nation
only days ago
only south of here
celebrated in Congress
by hoisting upon his petard a navigator
to State of that very violence
but I chose differently
not because I disagree with sentiment
but because I have different sentiments
and express sentiments differently
Allende is dead as well
babies are dead everywhere
there will be more dead babies
this cannot be stopped
everyone kills babies
they die for good and ill
rational and irrational causes
why we make them sometimes
thoughtlessly is beyond me
and so I baptize not bomb
to see if I have a discovery within
not because I know an answer
because I search
I want nothing of religion
I wish to be who I am
move forward into life
with low-keyed meditation
and irony, speaking cryptically
of an impending doom
playing the game of knowing
as diversion when not living
avoiding that rigorous honesty
as a preference to gain
a sense of rhythm first. First
let me strip others of deception.
I do not wish to kill
not for vengeance
not for love
not for some perceived necessity
not for any reason
not any man nor beast
He is dead today
and nothing is risen.
Alan Asnen copyright 2019