When The Bough Breaks

September 6, 2010

Tired beyond counting
Throat wracked with sores and
choked with phlegm
I’m looking out East
from the edge of America
and I still can’t lose this
restless beat
my heart has made
still can’t lose the feel of
last night’s heartburn
still can’t shake the feeling
that we are not men
and our time and the
time of others who support
and inherit ours is wasted
and the wealth of millions
stretched from here to San
Jose, where I may never go,
is wasted
and the salt that dries the air
and cuts the stones apart
and quenches the fires
and keeps the town alive
is the most effective player
I can see.

The wind that rustles these woods
carries my thoughts elsewhere.
I cannot remain or focus here
in my present state:
the mental tempest of post-breakfast coffee.
But I am calm, I am at peace.
Time to let the storm out of her cage of cloud and sea,
to let her rise and find the peak stride of her wail,
as her voice breaks upon the land.

She will first be heard in the sandal-ed bungalows
of San Juan, over the clink of glass
and quash the stench of Citronella
with the pungence of her sea-stink.
Next she will make the run-up to her legal berth,
the land she is owed to.
A fateful jet of Azatlan spares
the black waters of the Gulf,
out of mercy or boredom or nothing.
My voice gathers speed persistently
like a jogger’s legs gaining comfort
with motion and impact.

At the end of dusk she sees it.
A blistering target in the darkness,
all gaudy trees and stucco,
outfits screaming louder than my voice
beg for destruction at her hands:
She drools over this prey,
and as the wind begins to whip tree-perched geckos
into the concrete pools on South Beach—
naked, trembling, jets grounded—
it appears the neon nightmare is over,
and the sugar-free wetlands to the north
will awake to comb their hair in primal quiet.
But, seconds from landfall,
she pulls back in abject revulsion
and rolls out into the Atlantic to brood and
pick off hunting-ships as she wonders why.
My voice roves towards Titanic and Bismarck’s Lusitania,
stealing stories from the dark waters as she goes.
She hears of Blackbeard and his face of candles,
the hubris of Jim and James,
of the Ver E. Best taken
by that damned hill
and that odd idiot from Maine—
she falls desperately into hate.
If she tacks hard, she can make it to Norfolk
by next dawn and take the treasured Outer Banks
with her southern spiral arm.
And here she comes,
thumping along like a floor drum.
Keep moving. Go for speed.
Raise the wind-speed and blast through Richmond,
sweep the tail across Atlanta and don’t stop
until you hit the Ohio border,
where the bolt-work is more selective
and requires precision.
Leave absolutely everyone alive and homeless.

She reaches the banks.
No beach house she touches survives.
Even the homes she grazes
panic and flood their basements,
destroying priceless relics of a bygone era they never belonged to,
like a dough-boy soiling his uniform.
But as she prepares to march blue flame
across the flattened South,
my voice hears the call of a fantastic white flute,
the tremble of a broken drum.
She shifts north with the rising tide,
booming across shocked bays and flooded canals.
This is the black heart of the matter.
Deep up the river into the continent,
where the ivory lies
piled into obelisks and great mounds of bone.
There are too many banks.
Too many wild evasions of course.
The port is too well-placed,
it forces her to think too much.
Thoughts of other voices,
of fields and rivers where a wind may flow easily
through the unscathed brush and flirt with peace.
And when the bough breaks, the cradle will fall.
She turns back— yet again confused
—to gain strength.

Right now she is milling around
the waters off northern Maine,
dunking otters and twiddling
with her favored osprey.
Get up off the mat, you little punk.
She contemplates circling down
past Rio de Janeiro,
keeping warm,
almost to the edge of Ghana,
then whipping back, south of the Jet Stream,
to slam full bore through the Black Gulf —
because why let guilt be a factor at this stage?
Pick up as much oil as you can and
coat their braying throats with it—
right up the Mississippi, losing steam,
clouds tearing off at the shoulders
as she destroys herself with the land,
muscle up as far as St. Louis,
swan-dive into the Great Lakes
for one last burst of low pressure and
stab the Mayor of Chicago in the heart
with a bolt of lightning and her final breath.
No, she thinks. Too personal.
Too many would feel excluded. And what of the West?

She begins idling down the coast,
officially pissed,
picking up water into mean-looking
gray-green clouds that just hang low and menace the beaches.
Occasionally she stirs up a waterspout
or snaps lightning at a passing ship,
but only to keep low, and black.
Low, and black.

Amble through the Boston piers.
Fuck with the traffic on 93
as the rubber-neckers gawk
at huge, towering evil blackness
that does nothing but drift past and ignore them.
Creep through the naval bases and party boats.
Cancel plans.
Death march into the crotch at Long Island.
Ignore everything. Put your head down and appear to sulk,
plant one foot at Wall Street and the other on Mermaid Avenue,
open your many scabbed mouths with a clap of energy.
Feel out for the bricks, the rust, the dirty gum,
the boredom, the angst, the irrepressible dissatisfaction,
become a mute wrath
Reach out for the dry earth, the hot skin and dying gardens,
dying for you,
open up and rain, rain, rain, and just… stay.
Flood everything old
Drown it all and start again
Never lose your strength, just let it out
and when the bough finally breaks
fall apart, find a northbound train,
get a meal at the meeting of the rivers
and hop the next barge west,
packing nothing.