I first joined the organization
because it had the lovely aura
of an engine turning over
with no one at the wheel.
To think there is a room in me
larger than the one I live in.
I love that. The way a word
loves a sentence, a prisoner
a guard, a pair of lips the hand
returning with its cigarette.
People ask, was it my choice
or my parents. I tell them,
the company I keep keeps me.
You there, me here, and together
we make a stranger. Say we were
to shrink like candles at our desks,
or walk against the nightfall,
our shadows bled out in long
banners that, in time, dissolve.
Tough to blame the organization
any more than four good walls
for the broken marriage inside.
Talk, talk, and the big picture
turns more cruelly invisible.
If you assemble enough bodies
in the town square, they become
the nerves of one body, skinned
alive and anxious to inhale.
Or raw with amphetamine
permission. I too was born
weak and loved my mother for it.
I held her skirt in fear of strangers.
Myself, for one. Was it the same
with you. I tied a frog to a fire-
cracker, goaded by my friends.
We were just kids inside the belly
of the beast, appropriating
something of its laugh, its giant
dread of obsolescence. That said,
it is good to be dead now
and then, good to wander far
from the city lights you worship,
the ones you break your neck to serve.
Good to cash your sick days in
and lie there, recused, an exile
in the grace of no one's nation,
to relish the sway of church bells
in the distance. God knows where.
Are they in town or in mourning,
hung heavy with the news of something.
Whatever it is, it scatters its wings
over a river that will go nameless.
All their words are one word now.
One, one, one, they say, and then
they shudder for a while. One, one,
the silence echoes. And we follow.