The Backwards Leap
There is joy
but it’s encrypted, scrambled,
played so the untrained ear
only hears the voice-
changing software. There are seconds,
quarter-seconds of ecstasy (drowned out
by gossip and rebellion
and the eternal
needs of children) before
the feverish after-burn begins.
His motto now:
good news is tragedy in a fuzzy outfit. Dancing
drunk at the Irish bar
Bruce didn’t think about morning
or who’s driving. Joy, stupidity,
the backwards leap
of a fly evading the swat, the spontaneous
swirl of a thousand birds
getting the hell out of town.
His motto: avoid the radiant
dawns, the drugged-out jitterbug,
the head-spinning ascent. Dim the lights.
Turn the music down.
Leaving the Bar
Tilted like a doomed ferry
he wavers in the dark
from his eyes. After the voice
inside him drowns,
Bruce thinks he will be
up the hole
torn in his hull. The thump
of a bass surprises
him as two young women
tumble through a door,
flashing their hair
in the streetlights.
The ocean rushes in
his ears. This is not
about you Bruce. It isn’t
your voice to kill.
Bruce starts awake—who’s there?
A visitation from the dead?
Annie rousing the kids upstairs.
He sends them scurrying through the heavy
school doors just as the pledge begins
then confronts the outside world—
a wind-swept plain with dead leaves and oil slicks
mucking up the snow. People in cars
like displays in a dim museum. Do you want
to meet this hero of a man?
Sunlight cracks open the sky and he hums a little
tune. After another
twelve hours getting yanked around
the sun, he drinks a beer straight from the bottle—
Comes in a glass, his father used to say.
Bruce thinks of himself
as a sort of Buddhist, a devote of the day
to day of middle class, white America.
Not the worst sentence
on earth if you can avoid reality
TV and politics. But he has never learned
to quiet the voice, the one
who tells him to hurry. Tells him
who to talk to at the party.
Tells him he can do better.
It isn’t exactly inner. From outer
space almost. From some satellite.
Jesus Bruce, it always says. Pull yourself together.
Bruce’s face gleams in the blank
television and all through the darkness
the voice sings his failures, his irrepressible
vanity. This is what you made of white
privilege? Bon mots turned up as Post-its
on the inside of his skull. Outside
the neighbor’s lilac bursts
from the soil like a detonation
and the schizophrenic’s
weeds grow in intricate patterns
around a collection of idols. The voice
can only laugh. Bruce really believes
the beautiful couple across the street
planted those tulips just for him.