With Your Shield Or On It

by on July 17, 2012

Issue 3 Poetry
With Your Shield Or On It

Queasy with the day’s weight, I walk in Chinatown
Summer heat shames the old poets in Hell
Melted tar, rotting fish, a bum crawls
Seeking shade, wearing two coats

While my neighbor Mr. Xan, three B,awake at four
Tossing bales of bean sprouts at five
Wears what fell from the Armani Exchange truck on East Broadway
Waits in the Friday post-office lineup

A brick of green bills in his hand, one of two dozen
Chinatown, one end of the shunt
And though he worships his ancestors there is no nostalgia
Ancestors are not gods

History is not epic
What is embossed on his heart?
Across the Williamsburg bridge, I walk suspended
East River cool rises up to the churro lady

I can see from the narrows to the Bronx, all our rich and poor,
And shrug while my Labrador
Senior Osso, part husky, smells Luger’s
Before we’re halfway to the Brooklyn shore

This is the route we walk at half-jog each morning
But I’ve made my heart too hard to pump
Ossitto, one end of the shunt
I have traded my ancestors for rock and roll

My ancestors for gods, my history for epics
What is embossed on my heart? Within this moment
Beneath the bridge, I walk
A laughter, the very breaking crest, bright clear wave

I can see from the beginning of time till now, all our high and low, and shrug
While my tattoos catch eyes, too earnest, too old
I am too become the flesh and hair I wear
That laughter, you cannot carry the fallen on it, will never need to

One end of the shunt
Ancestors? God!
History? Epic!
What is embossed on their hearts? A joke about a joke

Bereaved, down Bedford, I walk outlandish
Sing: blackest sheep in this solemn flock
Inked and mohawked, stripped of sidelocks,
If I died upon the sidewalk… they’d not bury me

My people reject well, a talent
The entrance of women here is strictly forbidden
Our heroes, did they not bleed enough?
Iggy Pop and Jesus, still no change in the weather

Savior, one end of the shunt
What is embossed on our hearts?
An absence, the last but one
Turning to South Ninth, I stop

I am Achilles come to Priam
Whose city I have besieged
To return the remains of the son
Whose body I have destroyed

So much like Mary she weeps
Beneath her pain, a slipping
A boy falls out of the sky,
All the rest have got something to get to

A tattooed punk stands on the rabbi’s marble step
A brown dog pisses on the gate
This is everyday life, do you fall with Auden
Or Achilles, well it depends

It depends, oh God, oh gods
It depends if I say to you, or not

Mrs. Rosenburg, your son, my friend, is dead
The details were unpoetic.