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Elegy for Howard

                1.
The sting of oppression, insanity, prison... the sting
Somewhere a craggy old rabbi intones to one youngster
in his congregation: “May God bless you and keep you, Pinchus”
Sure he will, right he will, right—
while the prisoner, Howard, wears an orange jump suit
that shows, for the past few weeks, he’s been especially bad

If he’d been good they’d have dressed him in tan
That’s the last I saw him, brilliant and orange—
No question, he planned to survive this and come back
no quit there, no quit, to us
Well maybe, just maybe, it doesn’t work that way...
Things and people break

The chief oppressor wears in myth
a dull grey business suit, bland black tie, top hat and dark glasses
His slaves are handy with their poisons and powders
Their dark rituals handed down the one next to the other down
The whiteness of his hair, the violence of their magic
Don’t let his zombie bastards get you, not now, not now
               2.
At first there was an uneasy consensus
When no one is looking he’s free
But in this place they’re always looking...
He still sees her everywhere
She messes about in his head, in everything
If only he would smile more, she says, please smile

I see it all but I hardly live it now
No distractions for me, no invitations, no calls, no messages received
A gutter civilization built on the opium trade and slavery
He wants to freeze time with games, figurines, mementos,
action figures, posters signed by the actors, preserved in picture frames
and carefully displayed aside old signed footballs...

Attorneys, agents, money-jobbers,
speculators, adventurers, the ignoble oligarchy,
the destroyers of joy, the plutocrats...
They’ll one day, if they can, bring an end
to those deceitful dreams and bogus visions of equality,
freedom, and the so-called rights of men
                3.
I’m disgusted by their useless prayers, their dumb raptures,
with their bogus miracles, their hapless scapegoats,
and their idiotic rituals of hysterical thanksgiving
Now the storm is over, now the plague has passed,
these semi-stupefied zombie heathens
too old, too fat, too belligerent by half

Out of reach...
No cause was specified
No further details were provided
They’ll do an autopsy and no doubt lie about that too
He can almost hear the one great melody
He is always listening for that

He’s a hourly slave-worker in China,
a Guatemalan seamstress, a dull zombie citizen
of North Korea and a brittle, angry, defiant albatross...
We didn’t fear our non-existence before birth but we’re surely afraid of death
Who now speaks for the sad, the mute, the beaten?
Where is our outlaw?
               4.
I’m glad mom died long before that awful day
I remember when they fought, they screamed at one another
How she violently threw him out – “get out, get out, get out...”
The door slams and did she shriek then
She shrieked for the brilliant son who’s gone and,
I think, she shrieks for him now

In a coma for weeks but shackled to the bed anyway
with an idiot southern, heathen guard outside the door
(He has zombie slave powers, he’s omnipotent, he’ll escape!!!)
He awakes and knows, seems to know her, his wife is here
His eyes are closed, a tube blocks his throat, this hurts...
She’s here and she will sing to him

Sometimes, we willfully listen for something that isn’t
“May God bless you and keep you, Pinchus”
But it doesn’t always work that way...
She starts to sing her song, she sings to him
He opens his eyes a little, he hears her we think, and he begins to cry
Then, in an hour or so, Howard’s gone—he dies

– November 11, 2012 –