Each spring, a cloud travels up from the south
to an island in the Aegean.
The red cloud is coming, the townspeople say.
Or, the red cloud has been here.
What cloud? my mother asks. Since when?
The red cloud covers the buildings, the cars,
in a fine red film of dust from elsewhere.
That we imagine we cannot feel the wars
is an American feeling. That we cannot see them,
that we say they are somewhere else.
But someone pays the police. We do.
That we are meant to believe the poem can say moon
but not government. Both have flags
attached and can make a body
howl beyond its will. They punctuate existence
even if I believe I can’t feel them;
they legislate, they leak.
The moon which is always here
even if it cannot be seen. The inmates
and the detainees in correctional facilities and jails and prisons,
in maximum and minimum security, in solitary,
cannot see the moon, or they can.
The inmates who are here, always,
even if I cannot see them, who cannot speak to me
or who do, but am I listening? Are we listening,
to poems? Not much.
Therefore I can say anything. No;
I can say moon and tree and fox and river,
or me and you, or love and stutter,
but I can mean corporation I can mean police.
I can mean surveillance,
or that the moon is a prison, it is daytime,
and in daytime nearly no one sees the moon.
And the tree is a television
where the president appears in the form of a finch.
He sings gorgeously; people swoon.
We learn that finches eat mostly seeds
small and harmless, so when the tree flowers
in spring we forget the moon
and its mute armaments. How drunk we become
on blossoms. We don’t ask
what kind of seeds or where they’re from.
We hum along with the finches, with the sirens, with the rivers,
with the police; a harmony whose falling droplets
we can’t feel. And meanwhile,
a law ushered through noiselessly, mandating seeds.
This is not our poem. The poem has been privatized.
Its flag will be a red feeling.