Tuesday, May 22, 2012
On the night
that I was born,
the bells rang out
across the world.
– Dick Jones, “Stille Nacht,” Ancient Lights
Me, I was launched more or less
with Sputnik, that steel Russian
egg, peeping day and night
with unhatched, unhatchable dreams.
It floated above us, pregnant with fire,
reflecting on Hiroshima.
We grew up with Boris Badenov
and a thousand other tales spun for us
by alcoholic Jews from a ruined world,
trying to imagine innocence. Not
an auspicious beginning,
but you don't get to choose these things.
If we noticed that our mentors' hands
were shaking, we adopted
a hard-bitten style laughably unmeet:
we lived outside of history
in a land of endless Spring, and
it was explained to us carefully
that nothing would ever come due,
that no one would ever die.
How then to meet
an English kid from Horton Kirby
who thought our beats were real?
We stumbled yearning
towards each other's countries, thinking
somewhere was something
that wasn't spoiled. Trade places:
I'll take the Shire, you can have
the big sky and the Big Easy;
I'll take Shakespeare. You
can have the Delta blues.
Only the bells survived.
That, and the flesh, which we handed on
as best we could. We go now wearing
bear-shirt or feathers, wearing the fell
of whatever our people used to kill.
They knew a thing or two, those Olafs:
that it's better to wear your curse
than to run from it; that home is the straw
where your mother had to stop for the night.