I Will Love the Twenty-First Century
“Although I love the past, the dark of it,
The weight of it teaching us nothing, the loss of it, the all
Of it asking for nothing, I will love the twenty-first century more,
For in it I see someone in a bathrobe and slippers, brown-eyed and poor,
Walking through snow without leaving so much as a footprint behind.”
It is the new year and you have entered
into light and see yourself, now, outside of time,
standing with your hurt hand clasped
in the other, mourning the tides.
It was a winding staircase that led to a terrace
with the most intricate flowers.
You existed there and kept writing
the same response on a piece of paper
as if history never collapsed on itself,
as if you were never opened.
And you say, World, as if it is beginning just now.
It’s almost night, that was a belief,
that was a bird feeding only on water
in the puddle you’re left standing
on that rain-soaked terrain in the other country
I took that bird and placed it on the dark vein of my heart to set it free.
In my dream there are many boats.
There are people floating on a cool ocean current
and there are enough boats to carry them all.
When I arrive on shore, I see weapons.
I name the weapons: machine gun, machete,
grenade, club, razor, nails, sticks, speech then fire.
The world inflicts wounds on itself every day.
One day, the wound was the shape of a star,
the next day a wound in the shape of a mouth
about to praise, another wound the shape of a fist,
ready to pound the tabletop.
I have seen the moon in its most vicious state:
fat, greedy, ready to drop its will and fate.
I have seen the sky around it, exhausted
of gravity and poor wages and rain.
I have seen the trees, shaken into submission,
until they could take no more. Until
they let go their leaves into ragged heaps.
God is in his heavenly seat, face lit
with mercy or madness. We will free ourselves
from the houses that are tumbling.
Here comes a woman in an indigo sari,
she comes out of the doorway, bangles jingling,
sun in her eyes, while all of her belongings pass her.
The songs inside her are a medley that plays
over and over on a phonograph, to the left,
inside the ribcage, cracking a bone with a note too low,
with a note that was off key, her back bent
from tending to the songs, legs buckled from lifting
the songs above her head, arms tired from stoking
the songs inside her like an infinite fire.
You abandoned peace and chose fury
instead. Anger is the horse I ride on now
past field, field, field. Stop.
Just the sky enormous now, rough with clouds,
that shift silently inward until you are born
in that fragile, luminescent egg, the shell
flecking off and light in your hands.
A song gleaming on terraces from which I see
green, meaning everything you’ve ever done
or uttered shines and shines outward.
What would you think before your final day?
I would gather up all my love and look upward
toward fire and swallow my most ancient sound.
Not a cry, but a silence that led me back closer
to seeing, the gauze of my life would wind around me
until I was ancestral, luminous, bountiful
with my hurt and gratitude.
I would travel this path until I was no more,
until I was mute, blind, poor. Until I fell,
broke open like a radiant wound, molecules
of light that served me well while I lived.
All my pages burning. The language
that I knew of love and its tragic interior,
all it lost vowels and lullabyes.
The prehistorics drew one line to symbolize
a man, another line to symbolize a woman,
and a circle signaling the sun that would
give their lives a name. I was born
with six different names and I hold them all close
to me. I step on them, eat them like grapes
I say them over and over until they feel
like mistakes, until they feel perfect.
I am not afraid to say I’ll end one day
but I hope the curse of beauty will last.
The little twig with a flower swelling
at its tip. Its spring and I rise and last and last.
This is a form of getting by, my soft howls,
tears that signify a universe is dying out.
How do you come to terms with what you love?
With the sea’s breaking against your door,
tiny footsteps and then a knock asking to be let in—
asking to be fed.
Because you believe in the good, because you are full of grief,
because the 21st Century finds you trying to tell the truth
though you are not telling the truth just yet.
And we are rising as if for the very first time, out of our seats,
as if for a standing ovation, as if to sing, as if to walk,
as if to labor, as if to build, as if there is so much left to do.