In the City of Fallen Rebels
—after Jaime Sabines
Here comes the boy again, dragging his death by a string. Here comes the gun he waves above his head. Here comes the light raked loose like salted slugs, how it fizzes over liquor bottles & magazine racks, & he must feel it, yes, like ulcers puckering his skin, for he hugs himself with his other arm, high-stepping in place, trying to hold in the filthy, burst mattress of the soul. But here it comes nonetheless! Christ, look at it! It won’t stop jumping out to bang on the scuffed Plexiglas window of heaven. Here come the angels, they hear him, those starved revenants trampling the riverbank of his mind. But the gods, they refuse to blink, he’s nothing more than a speck of shit on the eyelash of infinity, they say, spitting sideways into the dust, though they come anyway, like Confederate marauders spurring their wormy, wide-eyed horses up from the shallow graves. They’re peatburnt & staunch, they’re flashing their bleary sabers. One has a face that keeps fuzzing out, & one has biceps like a pitbull’s flanks splattered with blood, & when he shoots at them, wailing, bottles explode, rum tumbles down shelves, trickles toward the feet of Mrs. Wen. Here she comes too, fumbling the keys, trying to coax the register open. Here come the five English words she knows, flitting about her like flying mice. Here come the gods again (they never give up), & the boiling sargassum of blood she can’t hold inside her chest, as some fusty, ferruginous fog blows in from the backside of the ghetto. Here come the dead, they smell it, waking in vacant lots, shoeless & soft in the weeds. Here come the screw worms & roaches, the black ocean seething in its bowl & a whole century like a ship on fire. In the park, where the boy buys his tinfoil surprise, the severed heads of history nod all night on their rotten branches. He blows the gates. He sleeps his dreamless sleep, curled fetal beneath a bench, his eyelids blue & blotched with bruises. Here comes the poet (what does he want?). He’s scared of the dark; he’d like to turn into a sparrow, fly into a steeple, hide beneath a broken bell. But a desiccated bat hangs at the back of his mind. He keeps poking it with his pen until the god-awful gods come again. (Jesus, they never quit!) Here they come, galloping across the river of a dead king rising, surpliced, bearded in flames, blowing their battered bugles. They want a word with the boy, they say. They take him into the trees. & there he goes, still half-asleep, dragging his death by a string.