Halloween before the election, two poems

Halloween before the election

What can we say to Confucius
who says if what’s said is not meant
then what must be done remains undone
or to the dear Diane Keaton
who asks the Godfather, Is it true?

How can it be that when candidates talk
they don’t mention the melting icecaps
or the countless measures of a good life
the richest country on the planet lags
behind Albania in? It’s awkward.
Do we ask? Do we want to know?

I’m amazed at how women like us
so much—their faces study and smile.
They deceive of course but their interest
is clear. Big gringos pass with big hats
and big bare feet in sandals or practical
walking shoes and day packs, jungle
leisure wardrobe. Oh well. Everybody
gets dressed in the morning and he’s
a lucky man the way she looks at him.
I wonder if he sees it. Who can tell
the truth? Or even see it walking there,
so close, every day, clear as air?

And how do we speak of the tender
light on a cloud or the savage urge
for blood or the dream in which the monster
has us by our throats, his breath a foul mist
as he asks, Who are you? And where
do you think you’re running to?

We’re good people, we say.
We don’t know, we say.
Please, we say

His laughter shakes our bones.
If only we’d made a little more money,
we think.

He wants the truth
but our tummies are full and we’ve forgotten.
I am me, we finally say, and I am running away!

It’s the best we can do and it’s not bad.
The monster eats us anyway.


Night of the living

Bells, bombs and songs battle in the alley
past the open door where Rosario leans
her hairnet-framed face over red meat
toward the shiny circle knife and re-touches
her eye makeup. A woman’s long legs, short
pants and high black boots—I didn’t see
her top half—step behind a barred gate
in the curved back of a stonewall pocked
with black wood beams and a long rope
hangs from a bell over a man with a ski pole
in one hand and the hand of a girl dressed
as the devil in the other. Night falls and bites
her lip, sparks the ring and silver black
curl and know-me-know-me-not shadows
lean toward memory and give me a hand
to balance old bones against the glance
of ghouls seeking treats. Painted faces sniff
the chase and bouquets of light and tapping
hooves beckon around the corner through
a crowd that packs flowers into the plaza.

And that’s just part of it. I buy beer and sit
on a stoop. Lit like day the alley smells of candles.
Seeds and petals shape colored skeletons
across the cobbles at my feet. If there’s a prettier
picture of death, I can’t imagine. I close my eyes
to the day of the dead and slip through a crack
and the music is my face, the stone my bones,
and the air suddenly something I swim in. It’s
warm, it’s clean, and I have nowhere I need to go.