Torn from Woman, Torn from Earth
In delicate and savage motions flesh
disgorges, like a rotting passion fruit,
as twisted carnival reflections mesh
with wailings from a ravaged prostitute
discarded to the painted grimaces
on alley walls. And tiny fingers scrape
bijouterie from womblike surfaces
till bloodied senses callus, as the rape
by phallic masters of a butchered earth,
bravado spurting from their whiskied seed,
ejects the wretches in disfigured birth,
in pull and thrust and pull -- the vulgar deed
proceeding in a violent reprise
that spirits boyish dreams from lifeless eyes.
Contemptuous the wind that whips and cracks
About the man, his face a surly bough
Of icy bristles scoffing at attacks
On flesh that fifty August wars endow
With leathered armor; anguished shapeless twigs
Of calloused bone in tattered mittens speak
His only words as all the world reneges
On promises; an Everyman mystique
Surrounds him, even as the gulf between
A world removed from humankind's debris
And one compelled to bully and demean
Inters the relics of his dignity.
His limping steps beneath a swirl of white
I paint anew in portrait every night.
The vulgar throb and throes of hunger lash
the man from deep inside: an anguished beast
obeys a primal call to wail and slash
till fading pleas for clemency have ceased.
A terse and natty lord of commerce flares
his bully nostrils in polite disdain,
all prig and peacock are the patron's airs
as fussed and flaunting windows entertain,
and puppy-eyed the urchins sniggering
in tribute to the unexpected sport.
With soundless shooing and admonishing
the man his herded masters do exhort,
as blurring shreds of his humanity
are swept into the city street's debris.
Of the Street
A Sunday's dusk, beneath the blackened hush
of city streets, old headlines fluttering
in storefront corners, and the sickly blush
of streetlamps and the steely sputtering
of empty flagpoles. Revelry departs
a doorway, glassy eyes that stare beyond
the void to proper worlds where pleasure starts
anew. The street belongs to vagabond
and beggar, blighted wretch who calls it home,
his legacy in pocket, daily bread
in scattered coins, abode a catacomb
of rail and grime upon a concrete bed:
effects we gentle citizens deplore,
and come the light endeavor to ignore.
A monolith, this stoic warrior,
his shield erect against the stinging sleet
that pours from apathy, a barrier
of battle-weary blurred and bittersweet
tomorrow's end that girds a brittle reed
in bloodied earth and stigma and the stench
of violated humanness, as greed
perspires from condescending eyes to drench
his tattered coat of mail in solitude,
and pocked and teary fields of battle pull
him closer to a blessed interlude
with roots once promising, once prodigal.
The righteous rise in virtuous refrain,
as frigid sidewalks darken in disdain.
We run as if an agitated earth
were breaking up behind us, and we fight
to gain our stations at the gritty trough
half-filled with corn, where each survivor's worth
is daily measured by another's right
to fair apportionment denied; and off
our makeshift plates of muddied, calloused hands
ensues a squealing angry vulgar rush
to suck the greasy nourishment before
there is no more, beneath the reprimands
of our possessors, who behold the crush
of vermin squirming to and fro, and roar
with ridicule at other men's distress.
And now the furnace of the picking fields:
my sweat, like acid, so intense the heat;
the layers of my skin in merciless
assault laid bare, as one would flay the shields
of weary swordsmen crumbling in defeat.
For I am just machinery, a tool;
and I must step and lift and strip and clear,
again, again, until all hope becomes
a moment's respite from another's rule,
a storm-whipped seedling doomed to persevere
until its fleeting energy succumbs.
The night, at last, should be our time of peace.
Instead a tempest rises from inside
of me - my brother kneels before the fire;
and all the creatures of the darkness cease
their plaintive calls, the churlish winds subside;
to touch his breath the spirits all conspire,
as like a starry pond his amber skin
reflects a thousand beaded silver pearls
of terror; time and motion seem to pause;
a fearsome crackling - flesh explodes, the din
of horror as a scarlet vapor curls
above bewitching firelight; and the cause
of all the misery of humankind
is set aglow upon the lustful eyes
of those in witness to the spectacle;
his swelling body thrashes in a blind
contortion at the resonant reprise,
the whistlings of the lash a chronicle
of limits to endurance, or of prey
in final battle, and we both recoil
with every searing flash of brilliant white;
the wordless ritual proceeds till day
begins, and merciful the rite of toil
to shroud the distant memories of night.
The valuation: ox and mule and I
are harvesters, production's pulse and breath;
the traders, sure as scripture of their just
and righteous task, assess and quantify,
and probe and estimate each life and death;
like seed we will be spread among the dust.
I watch my mother's face: 'tis just as well
they hack away her arm, so great her pain;
but all her tears dissolve in scenes of mirth
and profit, as the men who buy and sell
the bucks and hands and breeders do ordain
for us a last embrace upon their earth.
Our dearest bond is cherished; as the men,
becoming restless, hurry us along.
Once more I'd like to gather a bouquet
for her, to see her smile; and once again
to drift to slumber on an angel's song
as all my fears of darkness slip away.