In the Heat of the Moon
[Ferguson, Missouri – August 2014]
Late summer days, relentless sun
heating the morning city, turning
afternoon to a concrete sauna
during the searing days of August,
when, even at night, the asphalt steams.
Nowhere to hide, these days,
from the scent or sight of ourselves,
no one else to blame in the stark light,
for what we have always known of rage
rippling across red sunburnt skin.
It’s said that war’s first casualty is truth,
and this even in undeclared wars
of color, class, or cold contempt
that scar the city streets with blood
and the angry glint of broken glass.
A body, lying in the hot street, spills
itself across our memory, burns
its image in even the denying heart–
its own truth too raw to name at first,
its silent cry lost amid the sirens.
We can never know the final thoughts
of the young man falling through the heat,
to singe his dark skin on hot pavement,
feeling bullets carve his body, flashing
light and dark across his shattered brain.
We can never know what angry, hidden will,
what frenzied pulse, kept the finger
pulling shot after shot from the leaping gun,
as if the officer were watching his own hand
become an alien being intent to kill.
We did not hear the gasping breath or
feel the throbbing muscles as the gun
relaxed and air grew screaming silent,
could not see with unblinking eyes
what hands had wrought in the angry sun.
Gasping, too, the man inert on the ground,
spreading his dark red shadow behind
head and shoulders, the last breaths
rattling then fading, the final twitch
as nerves refused to go quietly away.
Bodies turn to numbers in the strange
calculus of distance and time,
but the numbers keep climbing faster,
like tallies in some cruel machine,
that computes the endless cost of hate.
It has all happened in the time
of the “super moon” that in its perigee
came so close it must have pulled
our reason far into the cloudless dark,
leaving just the sudden urge to strike.
[New York, September 2001]
At the heart of fire,
the core of light, of flame,
lies the heavy center,
the grave, dark point hiding,
infinitesimal, almost unseen,
like the slightest ink mark
punctuating hope, and yet
blank space as well, a gap
or gateway into someone else’s
Space and time conspire
to play tricks on eye and mind,
and size is but appearance
where distances deceive,
and much remains, or seems, invisible.
The universe, we are told,
holds mostly dark matter,
and energy darker still,
secrets unrevealed to light,
hiding not only in some distant
cosmic cloud, but even
in the slightest speck of dust.
Within the dust itself,
infinite space unfurls
in deep, throbbing darkness
so vast the mind breaks apart
in futile hopes to hold
and shape this thought.
The secret, then, is infinite space
curled and wound within each
grain of sand or fleck of dirt.
The mystery of every solid object
is the emptiness inside—gaps
within walls, between floors,
and the thin air of weakness
echoing across a hidden space.
Apparitional buildings, inevitable towers,
not more than elegant shells,
you, too, succumb, delicately
shudder and fall, floor upon floor,
into and through the strange
indelible cloud that both rises and falls,
where every flake of ash, every mote of dust
becomes and holds its own dark universe.