The Shape of Jazz to Come
Is war coming? Are we headed for another crazy cataclysm?
My sons, draft age. Only now can I appreciate the pain
so sharp it drains the color from one’s eyes, your reason
for living gone in a spasm of violence to be forgotten
never by survivors. This fear could become real as no movie
is surreal enough to distract attention from the certainty
you did not do enough to deflect man’s trajectory.
All could be well in the end but history portends
a periodic bloodletting followed by a quietus
without mercy. What’s the best that can be said:
he died beside his friends and buddies. Steady
on to your own inquest and rest. A perfect rest
that improves upon the inadequacy of your efforts.
What solace can be found in the remains of marriage.
So you better fight back now even if that means
war comes sooner. At least you’re fighting back, but how?
Take a minute to meditate on purpose. Science
cannot save you, neither can religion. Abstaining
from violence with love, letting prisoners go, detaining
no one at the border, inviting Chinese and Russian
scientists to our shores, defusing your own anger before it detonates,
none may be enough to save your sons.
A war president needs war, whatever. A trained
and deadly warfighter. You become what history wants
you to become. You survive if you’re lucky, if not
so what, your old parents will be alive only briefly to mourn.
Then they too go to their good graves and the pain dies down.
In the meantime a new generation builds a new space station.
Since the vortex will be sucking up the poor,
let’s not let the rich escape untouched. All go down
together, no one hoards gold or gets away with fiction.
If we have to fight let’s make sure we fight as one,
the sons of the rich side by side with the poor’s sons
and their daughters. You want slaughter? Then
let every city and back road know the new order.
I would rather watch Lalaland ten times over than have
to write this poem. I can leave home and live
in a tent or bunkhouse, eat dinner out of a tin cup
and drink water from a wooden bowl, give up
music and most of my memories to save my sons,
to save the world and avoid this war.
But that rarely happens. One is lost and found in what happens.
Quiet, dawn, Covid.
Biggest accomplishment yesterday: buying toilet paper.
Thanking the young cashier for doing her job.
Feeling a little sick, wearing my mask and gloves,
Spring oblivious to the virus, an idiot like Millay said.
At least we’re not beheading each other—yet.
Symptoms mild so far. Today rest,
no long walk, no knee bends.
I think I’ve watched every possible movie and tv show
and nothing’s left that doesn’t bore me.
I could learn the calculus, chemistry or physics
but will I and what for?
Most poetry is chopped up prose. That’s harsh
but true. But that’s because most days
are prose or yesterday’s news. Win or lose
sumthin’s gonna getcha. Drug cartel assassin, the blues.
If not now, when? Some other Wednesday. Why wait?
I wish I had some wisdom to translate.
It’s living and helping others to live
that counts, I guess. Cast a cold eye and guess,
walk the extra mile, report from the besieged city, be wise or a jerk.
I hope to get the antibodies the easy way,
mild symptoms, no brush with death, don’t intubate.
An existential Bessemer process, strange quark,
chances are I won’t be able to organize this day into an expressible state.
A daily exchange with nature’s enough
to alleviate my fear.
When I thanked the cashier
her smile was like the sun coming out from behind clouds
or the end of the pandemic, as if I had not wasted my life.