May 2008 - THE POTOMAC



Last Man Clapping
   P. F. Allen

Ever the empiricist, I tested that axiom of quantum
mechanics—observing something changes it—
at age five when I took apart my Fisher-Price TV.
 
The moon's an ovary in the night sky;
it sings the song of three degrees Kelvin,
and the universe hums along.
 
It all began with an elaborate root system
with dendrons this way and that.  And somehow
with wood and a big saw and hammer and nails
 
I was composing a poem, a big money poem,
a famous poem to which many had already
subscribed and agreed to put on film.
 
Harrison Ford would star and I wasn’t
even finished with the poem yet.  When they applauded,
who would be the last man clapping?
 
Reaching up for dad's hand at the bus stop,
three little girls, standing wrapped
with him in his long coat.
 
He foretold who'd be on the bus;  the old lady up
by the driver, thin arms clutching her patent leather
purse to her chest; the creepy guy in the back.
 
Now you know.  There's always an old lady.
She always sits in front.  Always clutches her purse.
The bus by default is always late.  Creeps aren't hard to find.
 
What's the etiquette of being alone?
In the dark, you forget you are a shadow on a café wall.
Drinking shadows of coffee.
 
Everything you see's an apparition; it shines brightly,
waves gassy spiral arms that smell of lavender and dogs,
emits high-energy rays before the black hole sucks it in.
 
The moon itself smells of wet ashes.   And the erstwhile mermaid
walks gingerly on shards of glass.  She has forgotten
the taste of the sea, peeking through heaven's keyhole.
 
Whales listen on the sea's sound channel;
they hear all over the planet.
They know what's going on. 

Daddy's little girl dances on his toes.
He tries to make Christmas for the whole world.
A rain gauge ain't gonna help.
 
I am the purple whore of Babylon
and so are you.
Monkeys with laptops write the story of  Armageddon.
 
Study on it. 
Find out the effect of the Great Depression on power steering.
Know the dead live forever. 
 
Be that one, that last man clapping.
There's a tracheotomy with your name on it.
Be Dismas or Gestas,  the good thief or the bad.
 
It doesn't matter, as long as your car has crisp handling.
We're here in the wilderness.  Grey cumulus threaten in the west.
It's a sign of good things to come.

 

Wounded

For Joanne

A butterfly whose wings are
brushed by unseen hands;
a painting of shadow.
The one whose hip has given up.
 
A kindergarten girl, standing
alone in the ditch
waiting for the school bus.
Cold sad hands.
 
Bright morning bedecked with frost.
Encoded messages.
Angels explain: we are all
somehow a wounded beast.

  
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