A pall settles over us

A pall settles over us

What do they think as the bullets
spit past or before the train hits
Did I do this?
Do I deserve this?
There but for luck go I?

It wafts into air

Remember, long ago, the well-dressed
German-Americans in Inwood Park
Casual Sunday for them
in their dress more formal
than anything we’d ever wear

What do we cling to?

The alien other
The not-me upon whom
I depend in a muscularity of
memory with the tufts of dry leaves—
red, orange, and green above me

Love that grows in the pall 

Death’s not new to us—
In the course of this life
each of us dies many times
He was addicted and prey to an
agitation only heroin could stop

or in other sordid places

What about them now—
The offices they held,
their jobs, their aims,
aspirations, anxieties,
their luck both good and bad

In a place from which no one returns

The lilting of the train
wills you to sleep, makes you
miss your stop, takes you
to a foreign place and makes
you late for our date

there but for luck go I 

Heard on 14th street, late ‘60s:
“Shuga, Shuga Shugaaaaa!!!
We got shuga pops for the kiddies
And we got Gleam, Gleam toothpaste
Keeps your teeth clean, clean, clean!!!”

Comforting illusions deceive us

It’s bad for us when
we seek a truth that doesn’t ask
about our preferences
A truth so stubborn and thick
it forbids us to think of them

like a brutal, indifferent machine

She and me fit together then
like an obscure, unlikely puzzle
You didn’t hear me say, “You’re far
too beautiful for me to try to please
and you’re way, way out of my league”

that slices through innocence

Reticent, ill at ease with strangers,
their first impressions of him never good
Contact between him and them
was through a hardened membrane,
an awkward armor of silence

So we give up on public lives

The rumbling of the train comforted
me in ways my soft bed couldn’t
I fell asleep on the train
and missed my stop
and that’s why I’m so late

We focus solely on our pleasures,  

See Mark, a pretty fair artist, sweat as he fills
trash into plastic bags by the highway
for his community service with a fellow group
of petty scofflaws—Mark’s crime?
He used slugs instead of tokens for the subway

fused tight in our excitements

Unsubstantiated rumors, second
guesses, hints of plots, half-truths,
gossip, unreliable speculations
and forebodings, all the work needed
to be cleverly mean and subtly cunning

as a pall of ghosts settles over us



-November 19, 2016-