"It was just your type of dream,
jumpy, a movie out-take
the masked surgeon drags
his son to the operating
and hands him a scalpel
saying, Kid, it's never too late
the guy under the sheet
is beaming, his eyes watery
So nice of you, he murmurs,
My children ignore me-:
the kid knifes him open, blood
blooms on the sheet,
red of borscht, too red
for real life, it's just a
when the director yells
You're killing 'em
no one, not even the body
cracks a smile, so the joke
keeps looping the set, a kind
when comics need new gags
they squeeze their families
squeeze till something nasty
pops out-: It isn't
more like a steamboat
burning its cabin-planks
Should we call it art
just because real people
Achilles, dragging Hector's corpse
round the dusty plains of Troy, grew bored.
"A cowboy shoots Iago in the ass;
in Brooklyn, the audience yells at Lear, Throw
those rotten girls out! American know-how
would solve tragedy, no revenger's black
smile here, tooth for a tooth for a tooth gone--
here, we can calibrate both suffering
and crime: cash for tears, cash for a chopped-off hand;
our balance-needle trembles toward heaven,
a calculus for love.... Still, there's more lust
in payback: tongues cut for a word, your child
split for my mother. The day the Wall fell
my friends sobbed-- One Deutschland and Europe's dead.
They never bought German, not even a pill.
And the pill granules-German too? It's just
a slurry of revenge for them, formless...
Hitler hugged the Volkswagon-but he also
called Henry Ford his hero, nailed his photo
above his desk, got him a medal too.
Corn we eat grows from shit. The man who
invented the electric can-opener
gives the Aryan Nation millions a year:
does every opened can kill a Jew? Once,
I sublet my place to a Dresden student
(nice kid), and panicked: would my Nazi books
upset him? I boxed them up, Auschwitz, Speer,
Nuremburg... German shame had become mine:
we'd never square things. --Bothered me all year,
a stew rattling the lid. My neighbors took
him to church, gospel ladies clapping time,
the clink-clink as his change hit the plate...."
David Gewanter's first book of poems, "In the Belly"
(Chicago, 1997), won the John Zacharis Award from "Ploughshares". His
new volume, "The Sleep of Reason", also from Chicago, is due out in
2003, as is "The Collected Poems of Robert Lowell" (FSG) which he is
editing with Frank Bidart. He was a Witter Bynner Fellow at the
Library of Congress, and teaches at Georgetown.
Potentially, might be ...