Carthage and airplanes, Carthage and the television, Carthageís identity & Carthage and the evil
[ poetry - july 05 ]
Carthage and airplanes
Carthage likes to ride in airplanes.
Up in the sky he can forget
About the schedules of earth.
It is almost like thinking,
Gazing out the window at the clouds.
He likes to ponder.
"We're pretty high up," he says
To his aides.
"I wonder if we could go much higher."
Everyone looks thoughtful.
Back on earth ten-year-olds heft Uzis,
People drop dead on sidewalks,
Friendship sours like old milk.
How much better it is in the sky!
Too bad you have to be going somewhere.
Too bad the endless limo will appear
And some suit or turban or daishiki
Will greet you and start
Telling you about whatís going
To happen soon or happened yesterday.
"Why donít you fly around more?"
Carthage would like to say to them.
If you live in the sky, nothing happens.
You donít even see the rain.
It is almost like thinking.
Carthage and the television
Carthage likes to watch himself
On the television.
He does this in the privacy of a panelled suite.
Former leaders entertained call girls here,
Women who walked through the door
With only a pair of high heels on.
Carthage prefers his own face on television.
It isn't vanity.
On the contrary, his staring stems
From an almost metaphysical doubt.
When you live in front of others
You misplace yourself.
"Did you see Carthage on the TV?"
Other people who are busy stirring sugar into coffee
Or searching for a paper in a thick file say, "Yes."
Behind the silicon fire, the waves,
Cameras, and coils of wire is a person.
Some static days it is as hard
To credit as the god of the Protestants.
Some days he dangles in the shadows of news,
Dim as a sermon.
Thatís why he keeps an eye on himself.
What he says doesn't matter.
Commentators parse each pause and phrase,
Then, as experts, disagree.
What matters is what beams:
The lard of his smile, the pitch of his head,
How clean his shave was that day.
Laws shroud the nation's polyglot cities,
Wars evoke monuments,
Ventriloquists hum statistics
But this face scintillates like springtime or chocolate -
Something faithless, pictured and blind
Carthage is both a nation and a person.
When people meet him they shake hands
With a person but they see a nation.
Sometimes, when he has a minute to take a nap
But can't sleep, he can feel
The mineral aches of being a nation -
Filibuster, imbroglio, forswearing.
He thinks it's the best nation
Though heís not so dumb as to think
Heís the best person.
Somewhere in the middle is how he'd rate
Himself as a person.
Even though they are really important people for a while,
He knows most presidents wind up as names
Of junior high schools.
He sees the flag every day and he realizes
That he will die
But the flag, which, after all, is just
A piece of cloth, will live.
He canít imagine the flag dying.
He can see himself in some hospital room
Hooked up to a lot of contraptions
Like his dad when he died.
He can see himself trying to look dignified
While heís pissing his bed,
As if his skin werenít flesh.
It comforts him, that he will
Die there some day and the nation will look on.
There will be a big funeral with horses and soldiers.
People will cry.
Maybe for him and maybe for the nation.
Carthage and the evil
Carthage is sorting out the bad
From the evil,
A task that could give God a headache.
Carthage shoulders on,
Searching for criteria:
When the evil obliterate a village
They brag about it,
Whereas the bad snivel
And protest that the blood on their hands
Is dye, that they too are victims,
That the ax of reason is an equivocal tool.
Distinctions are dubious
But some rule of thumb is required.
Without distinctions you'd be at it forever.
Carthage finds solace imagining
The demise of the evil.
They will be standing in a room screaming
Or pointing a pistol at the sky.
The ceiling will dance on them.
Imploded stars will impale them.
righteous murder the evil
So the bad can live in murderous peace.
The good, those like the widow's
Three sons who were in the marketplace
Purchasing lentils and chickpeas when the fires descended,
Do not appear in any strategic equations.
The good have no ambassadors.
They are tasteless as water.
They drudge in the apolitic mills of love.
Look at the evil,
Carthage is saying to the bad.
I am measuring their tyranny.
It is like a shoe size.
You better talk to your miserable, human feet
That always are growing.
These poems are from a limited edition chapbook, Carthage.