October 20, 2021KR OnlinePoetry

The Constitution at Night; Early Winter

The Constitution at Night

The demonstrators are confronting the troops, and the old man wishes to be with them. His wife says, Can’t you just send a check?
But no, here he is walking among the monstrous buildings in the hour before dawn: the Subtreasury, the Pantheon Security Complex, the secret building that has no name or doors or windows. Here are the statues: the martyr George Custer, Robert E. Lee, and blank plinthes with the names of McConnell and Thomas Cotton; those horseback figures have not yet been carved. Here are the figurines of naked nymphs whose eyeballs have been beveled with a flick of the chisel so they gaze adoringly, all in the same direction.
In the distance, shouting falls silent. An acrid smell is the only guide.
There is a space where the mind ends and the universe begins. It is barely forty feet deep. On one side the tact squad with their opaque visors, their transparent shields, their semiautomatics and lead-tipped sticks. Their drugged horses wheel in place, whickering with eagerness. On the other side, a few Americans with cardboard signs. One brought a house cat on a braided leash.
The old man is wandering in the gap, lost in thought, dragging a sign he made himself.
Let me wean myself from catastrophe, as a child pushes away the ample breast, and learn to drink this tainted air.


Early Winter

Once, I glimpsed the world without me. I tremble to remember it.
This is what happened: I had argued with my wife. Over what? The mortgage? A handful of crumbling cashews? It seemed it was my obligation to make a point. But she turned away, her eyes cloudy, and stared out the window. There was the long street we had always lived on, the sheen of sleet in the elms, a child passing on a skateboard as if evening were using him to rule a straight line. It occurred to me: I am not here. A limousine was passing, arrogantly slow. It was about to snow. It was long ago. I was afraid.
Then she turned back to me. She touched my hair. And I came back to the present. I saw it with her eyes. I wanted a sandwich.
The world without me is vast. The red lights doubled on the slushy asphalt. The bodegas, their steel gates rolled down. The bars with neon signs for craft beers. A few dog walkers, hooded, their heads down, resentful of their enraptured dogs. The highway with its cloverleaf and the blank wall that hides the docks of the waterfront.
Without her there is no world.