Learn How to Read
For I know well enough a time will come
when we will have to crawl back along the roads
we hastened over, I take this knife of words
(the sharpest blade of all) and make a mark
in every tree that sheds its tears around me,
and hide my shoes and rags in holes in the mud:
and all these marks I make for just one purpose:
to find my way back through the labyrinth
of memory’s inherited punishments.
Should I read the books of distant lands
I cannot reach alive?
The question is useless.
Run, run, stubborn fool,
learn how instead of what to read:
the signs are elusive
and all frontier guards are kept
strictly and unbribably
A cup of black coffee
To the memory
of October 23, 1956
The headlines glare ‚“they will be hanged!” Between us streches
the Atlantic, and I’ve never meet the man.
I have no idea where he lived,
but keep seeing things.
I seem to know for sure
that he had a pair of worn sandals
that he left under the chest of drawers
carefully polished for Sunday.
He also had some frazzled ties. There they hang
just as he left them on their old string,
thumb-tacked to the back side of the creaky
closet door. And his mother stares – ‚“why?”
“…on his neck?!”
The neighbors pretend
they’ve stopped paying attention, but it’s hard
when they see the mother. There lies a letter on his desk,
barely begun, addressed to someone called, “Dearest”.
How could the Secret Police have missed it?
The mother keeps a silver spoon
(their only thing of value) for old times’ sake.
She would set it next to his plate when he’d come home
from the factory, late and starved.
He also had a pair of suits,
half a dozen paper-bounds about faraway places –
he read them and re-read them, desk-bound,
as he travelled.
The other one: A young woman.
She looks as pale and weary as expecting mothers
in the third month often do. Her lover
(there was no time for marriage) jostled and bumped,
cranes his neck in the fear-stricken crowd
in front of the prison yard hoping for a last minute miracle:
maybe the baby… OUR baby will save her…
I knew the rhythm of her blood… I KNEW her…!
Would biting his lips until they bleed
help against the fainting? Last night she spent with me
in my apartment she forgot her broken black comb
on my bed… Her hair… her brown hair in tiny coils
caught in the comb on my bed…
My insomnia is reaching its third week: a trivial nuisance of no public
The unstoppable tape-recorder inside my skull
churns out fragmented utterances:
tomorrow at the crack of dawn
no later than five thirty in the middle
of the prison yard and in a matter of less
than thirty seconds
the rope will effortlessly
tear my body to pieces
start to well up?
In less then thirty seconds my body that twenty six years and a legion
of secrets irreproducibly extrabiological were hard put and busy
it will be torn to pieces from within
by far less than thirty seconds
ought it perhaps not
should it perhaps not
take just a bit…longer…?
The sun’s up. And though the headlines will not change their leaden
minds about that execution Monday morning,
I somehow cannot face
driving nails under my finger tips
or banging my head against the wall
until my temples burst.
And even though I got a cable from London
asking me to start collecting the signatures of famous Harvard
and Yale Professors for clemency (directing the mail to Prime Minister
Nehru) I just can’t seem to work up the adrenaline
to send that two hundred dollar telegram
to Satan for mercy.
Petrified effigy of a dead crusader,
a-moral bundle of knotted, tangled nerves,
I will probably crawl into my modern
all-electric kitchen and, so scornful of death as a
Roman gladiator, indulge myself in a sobering drink of
Alka Seltzer on the rocks. And should some one say that that’s
becoming much too Americanized, hell, there is always the more
of making it
of black coffee.