—Tom Goff, Carmichael, CA
ATTACKING THE STATUE
Attack the statue lately erected to Gandhi;
it’s only a scrap of bronze, rumor made metal,
it renders reputation, always a folly,
a cauldron of error around a legend, a kettle.
This man in the flesh was flesh, made errors, grew,
slept cuddled with nude young women, aimed to be pure
yet sullied his holiness exploiting others
in his quest for self-perfection. Are you sure
your faith in stainless and quite sinless saints
inscribes you on the roll of banded brothers?
Before your virtue, all else human faints,
so rapturous your conviction of the true…
Show us, though, your composure, rapped on the head
till blood rains, fighter for freedom, for salt—till dead?
The Great Soul must win through to selfless love:
and so he fastens on his shy grandniece.
Manu, a lithe yet quiet brown-skinned slip
of seventeen, will bed him, breast to breast,
celibate, yet nude, each night. His peace
demands her utterly tempting, breaking his rest!
Demure Manu handmaids him too. His lip’s
least toothless word sets her to work, soft dove
sent sweeping up excrement, scraping and oiling his feet.
She accepts the astonishing weight of a lean ascetic
leaning into her. Bapu and Manu greet
East Bengal’s naked roads and fields. Nomadic
venturings-out, to countervail the nightshade:
datura-bloom infoldings, old against young.
A whole subcontinent of man and woman
tries healing the gash in feeling desire inflicts
thoughtlessly joyously, once this lilting blade
of skin and blood stirs all that begs to cling
where entered and roused and holding within. Yet no man
battled like this before: he thrusts and kicks,
he’ll shove this oh so sensual cup aside.
And she, no vessel, this girl-woman hides
what revulsion or resolve chafes her love raw.
She alone knows. And does as best she can.
Won’t paradox between them on their pallet,
this lust for brahmacharya, holy vow
to sterilize all desire, whatever they call it,
set free to rage, split this world blow by blow,
just where his India won’t touch her Pakistan?
(first pub. in Falcon Scratch, also in WTF and the chapbook, Twenty Two)
Oh this is a disaster, it is as if
I’d forgotten or lost my spectacles,
having to finger my way through
a world that swims and swarms. My dear dear
grand-uncle has lost his precious
pumice-stone. He thinks I lost it
on the dusty yet hard path, somewhere
behind us on this pilgrimage through
East Bengal: Rangpur, Dhaka—whereabouts?
No help from the silent villagers, Hindus,
Muslims, also some Sikhs, all tacit.
Oh, the ill luck surrounding one
pumice-stone, one simple instrument
for scraping the feet! Even did he not
upbraid me, I do know how those dear
elder feet stifle otherwise in the dust,
recoil from stones and ruts. What
a good and pure man. Yet what is it
he has done, to single me out for
a sleeping companion? Why hold me?
I am confused. They say—for he cannot
keep all secrets—he is wanting me
for sex, I know it is not for sex, rather
for no-sex, he holds to the highest principle.
He maintains his loincloth, but yet
it is I who recline naked and cuddle him
in the heavy-slept or sleepless nights.
I could declare that sometimes, when
the womanly need is on him, yet he
sleeps deep in my hold, he murmurs
words meant for Ba, in truth or love
he does mutter her name. How strange,
to be a kind of deputy wife…
And now I must search out, along
the dust highways, among the brambles,
that confounding, all-necessary
pumice-stone. Better, he avows, that
I should die set upon by packs
of violent raw violators, by uncouth
farming men, goat-herding men,
than not venture, as now I do venture,
this search for the needful, the potent object.
This, he affirms, is my mark of
courage, good work for my variety of
satyagraha. Am I no warrior?
Never, no never, has he used me
as one might think, as men use when
they go to women with needs of night.
What I treasure of him is when
he makes his little jokes to reporters,
American or British, to truth seekers
from Des Moines or Charleston, jests
in English. And I want to giggle, knowing
in Gujarati, the jokes are that much better…
But ah, where might I now find
that use-worn fistful of pumice
to bring back to him with my so-called courage?
—David Wright, Sacramento, CA
Something will catch my mind
and not let go
Then I will know
Terror, Terror, Terror, Terror...
Do I belong there
Curled in a ball
Like before birth?
By fate I'm a seed;
Afraid of growth.
I prefer the best I can do, insecure
To idle comforts of a second womb.
We will be behind walls soon enough,
Try, Try, Try, Try...
THE OFF-RAMP NOT TAKEN
So at nineteen I made it by thumb to Sacto from
South Boston and got myself a job
Driving for Yellow Cab.
Minimum age for a Taxi License was twenty-one, but a
"Southie" won't be hemmed in by petty restrictions.
I made a DMV connection and got a very legal-looking
Driver's License and driver's record.
Also, I signed myself up for some classes at City College.
Took a Poetry class where we had to write on "The Road Not Taken".
And I wrote that Frost was not really a "nature poet", it's just that he used
Natural settings he knew well to frame his work.
And so if Frost was a cabby he might have written "The Off-Ramp Not Taken" instead.
I tried to write such a poem but had a
Nightmare (or was it?) where Frost came pounding on my door, carrying a shotgun,
Screaming I was a dirty rotten plagiarist.
I let that project go.
ONLY THE DEAD
Over espressos each strains to
Better describe angst, the
Darker the better, the
Most depraved, the
Give us the most nothingness!
Their nihilistic nightmare born of the
WWI trench warfare,
God and moral order
Autoclaved gleaming scalpels.
Bravely they bare modern nihilistic angst,
("Waiter, I'll have another, and bring me some cream.")
Oh, the agony.
I suppose we should leave them to their pain, they're
Having a great time with it.
So, let me make this point over here, out of earshot of them. OK?
They haven't written a damn thing about the dread of nihilism to match Ecclesiastes!
It wasn't science, or automobiles, or printing presses, or green-lawned suburban houses that informed that
Old man. "All is vanity" he said. This was whispered in his ear by the dead.
Nothing new or modern was needed, “…there is no new thing under the sun."
Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.
—Medusa, with thanks to today’s contributors for their fine Wednesday fare!
James Lee Jobe writes: I am starting a second blog, called 'paz', to feature anti-war poems, peace poems, poems that encourage non-violence, and poems for social justice and social change. People can email them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. The blog is up and running with its first couple of poems. My other blog, pablo, continues with my own poems, plus some music and art.
to listen…) Scroll down to the blue column (under the
green column at the right) for info about this and other
upcoming poetry events in our area—and note that
more may be added at the last minute.
Photos in this column can be enlarged by clicking on them once,
then click on the X in the top right corner to come back