[ToC]

 

4 POEMS

Bryan D Price

 

 

LYING ON WATER

Building a city can prove difficult
because it is costly and investments
in comity have become scarce. Living off
the land is an option, but one made, for
some, purely out of desperation
because the rest of us can never be
as primitive as we had once hoped.
Clearing a forest is work that most would
rather consign to others less fortunate,
and the desert is a haven only
for the select few. The harvest is meager
and the transparent wilderness can be
more frightening than one that is dense.
Early Christians managed it, but for them
perfection was foreclosed absolutely
on earth, and thus immanent without
any regard for earthly reward, save
for grace, which is immaterial. Such
living would take a commitment to
suffering that many today, to their
credit, can no longer endure. There are
questions of practicability that
remain theoretical, and asked
almost always in a spirit of bad
faith so profound in its indifference to
our agonies that such utterances
reveal to us the dire nature of our
dilemma. There is, in effect, nowhere
to turn but perhaps inward where we cannot
be alone together or discuss out
loud the definition of fulfillment
and what it means to be credibly
emancipated from what commercially
minded men continue to call civilization
even though it has long had the look and
feel and smell and taste of a state of nature.
Their houses can be taken by force for
us to make our city in, but such
violence will degrade our souls as it
has all the home stealers and land thieves that          
ever collected the rain in someone
else's garden or brushed their teeth in
someone else's bathroom. There are some places          
that today lie in ruins where we can
make our nests in. Such fragile and beguiling
structures slowly turning back into sand
and silt may have even been originally
summoned for similar purposes, and
erected by people who, if they were
still with us today, might share in our desire
to be as contented as beasts that lie
on water and look at nothing but sky.

 

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THE HOUSE OF JUSTICE

The meal is not complete without
a carafe of wine. He touches
the crystal gently as if to
say take this away, leave me
to my reading and spiritual counsel.
But on this night he must
finish it down to the dregs.
No more tea. No more olives.
No more good bread. No amount
of whimpering is sufficient to turn
back this tide, and give back
to him his well-built house,
his quiet commute by rail. He
has supporters. The UN has gotten
involved. But in the end there
can be no other way. No
funeral. No plot next to his
wife. No place even on a
map for his mourners to imagine
him resting. His ashes have been
disappeared like rain into the ocean.
Still justice does not move in
the way that we think. It
is a snake. It doubles back
as if to remind us that
we have no friends, no enemies,
only nature's deleterious course. His appeal
is not insufficient. His martyrdom not
without its power. And because he
admitted no guilt, begged for clemency,
worked hard at upholding the most
quotidian details of his adopted homeland,
his adherents will continue along his
snow-covered path toward their derogation of
utopia. They will avenge him. They
will put his likeness on their
secret flag hung beneath a portrait
of Jesus. They will come for
us under its protection as a
show of solidarity with the past.

 

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THE EARLY MEMORIAL SOCIETIES

We have his things, or most, thanks
to one of the early memorial societies.

There is a marker. Everyone has a
marker. A place in the ledger. But

digging is forbidden, so who knows
what is down there. I do not believe

it. The death certificate says dysphagia,
but they have been known to lie, to shame

the families. There have not been doctors
there for ages now. But bureaucrats are

everywhere, often leaking to the press
the presence of certain pictures and

other evidences of criminal homosexuality.
I had hoped to find letters but they gave

me only clothes, a comb, an inexpensive
folding knife with the tip broken off, a

box of neatly folded newspapers—only
the sports pages. I take these things and

hide them in a box made to look like an
urn and put it in a place where there

are no windows to look through, only
walls for miles around the future.

 

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A SCHIZOPHRENIC ENTERS THE VILLAGE

A stranger is among us who smokes filterless cigarettes. There are very few of us who still smoke cigarettes, and filterless ones are as rare here as snow. But I have seen the ends smoked to the quick lying on top of the grass in front of the Methodist church and also along the channel behind it. People are on edge because of the appearance and ubiquity of this specific litter. There are certain types of pain that are easy to spot in things that move. Some odd behaviors can be ascertained from many yards away. Such movements are estranging in their proximity to familiarity. It is like watching the gait of a wounded animal. There are coyotes who live near here and come down in a state of emaciation that would startle you. Their gallop too is strained. There have been yelps at night. What would happen, I think to myself in bed, if the children had caught him? Before we taught them to fear strangers, their cruelty often knew no boundaries. There is no more charivari, no bells, no humiliation, no tar, no feathers, not even a dogcatcher anymore. Police cruisers come through now to handle everything.

 

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"Lying on water": The spirit (as well as the title) of this was taken from a line in Minima Moralia (page 157 in the 2005 Verso edition).

"The house of justice": It is not meant to be history, or like history, or even accurate, but a speculation about some trouble that is afoot.

"The early memorial societies": Another speculation.

"A schizophrenic enters the village": I have written a handful of poems about walking. This is one of those walking poems.