“e canterò di quel secondo regno
dove l’umano spirito si purga
e di salire al ciel diventa degno.
Ma qui la morta poesì resurga,
o sante Muse, poi che vostro sono;
e qui Calïopè alquanto surga…”
- Purgatorio, Canto I, Dante
"And of that second kingdom will I sing
Wherein the human spirit doth purge itself,
And to ascend to heaven becometh worthy.
let dead Poesy here rise again,
O holy Muses, since that I am yours..."
- English Translation
I don’t want to live through memory, I need
to feel a moment. To wake knowing the undertow
of a mountain falling down on a chest and, being afraid,
asks for some purple token of friendship to remind
that while some ideas change, most get stuck in our throat.
I don’t want to sit perched on a hill,
away from the human din and ardor of toil,
surveying the sentimental grasp and major Cs
that could or may yet be a fallen wasp’s nest.
I want my hands dirty, brown armpits of my white
shirts. I don’t want anything to be or not be other
than how it is now, or when tomorrow’s tomorrow,
how it is then - and know that difference as the moisture
evaporates. I don’t want anything to be perfect except
the enjoyment of light, curled in a weak hand, picking up
the rollicking strand and starting again without hope, but purpose.
I don’t want to see electronic yellow billboards
flashing “Boston Terror Updates” in pixelated violence
as if fear needs a reminder to come again when conjured
illusions, unbidden, do enough speaking to mute our color.
I want to remember names by seeing
the shape of their skin, not reading symbols
and painting an allegory to war or space travel or history books.
When I think of the Red Sox I want us to sing
Bruce Springsteen and Van Morrison with a friend,
the ones who claim tomorrow will never be better,
unless we try harder not to die or make things
more complicated than a knot to untie, making
each day its own meritocracy of sometimes valleyed peaks
over in Charlestown, that balled fist, or ambling to Cambridge,
that look of knowing, and down into Needham and Newton
with the Jews, where the hills roll into a cultured apogee
of hand-spun revolution.
I don’t want to think of Variteks or Ortizes.
I want to grin with Walter Wrights, Kettlewells, Gingles,
Morans, Butlers, and Murphys. I want to walk through Mass Ave,
a stranger amongst unknown royalty, admire and know
exaltation so that it may be repeated, not preserved.
Let’s eat sushi down Brookline, a nice spot in Jamaica Plain,
enjoy a sake and talk about the unknowable past and
how young it is to be living. I want us to touch the Newbury Street
cobblestone, watch the pigeons from the faded violet brick
of footsteps, sip a cool drink, smoke, and think
of home: what home? Here, now.
I don’t want Medford to be some half dreamt
idea forged in a Somerville garage between a pair
of broken overalls and a pastel paint job,
an elephant laid to rest along the hedges
that children only whisper about when the grown
and undreaming have gone to bed for a day. No,
I want tufts of hair and a jazz band to play
my funeral, be damned. My conscience sees the trees,
but forgets how wet the blue handicap sign appears
when I’ve stopped looking in the woods for what was
or wasn’t there, when looking didn’t change how things were.
The dingy bus in Chinatown never looked a more immaculate
chariot to another adventure in Yonkers. Let’s dance again
at Davis Square and throw coins to the musicians who breathe still.
I want us to live among the townies, crowned with brass or
High Life aluminum siding, strong houses as bodies
filled with a present day story that loops around itself like
a Borgesian play and starts again in a spoken-word mythology
culled from this instant now and here and here again until
the next one comes that inevitably follows. The next pigeon to black out
on the T, finding the red line a suitable home for student vagabonds,
programmers, and brokers, if they’re not all the same person in the end.
The commotion, and it’s truer than desire, never ceases or apologizes
for being petty, or stops loving its own movement toward that something.
Let’s not be pattern seekers anymore. I want to blend in,
make stripes of scars, not losing the strand that separates,
makes new, and comes to something altogether different and maybe
holy. No grey shadows where the sunlight was just yesterday,
and still is, if only the shades were not so heavy today and we
rushed toward the sirens because they call on us to save
each other, without knowing how exactly, but to try with grace
and fail, because, an animal is only a dying animal after all.
I want to try, even as this hand is my own,
to be a mowed skyscraper rising in jeweled smog sunset,
because one day I won’t want to or have too little
blood to run for today and tomorrow. Then,
I’ll prefer to dream of things that once were,
wishing to have created something out of things
that were not yet. There is still time I want,
there was a marriage I heard, despite the mourners.
I want to hear again and shake your salty hand,
congratulations for your name and your ruddy face,
drift off to Cape Cod in August with a dream
and some incubated intent. I want the wind
to flag through the warm SUV windows,
deep in our conversations about the future,
and the unseen whispers of young people who,
knowing the irascible beauty of newness, shall
wake a drowsy half opened-eye and remind us the way,
breathing and wanting and talking and looking.
Let us go then, carry the etherized to the nearest triage of words,
and make haste to open our throats and make it worth the spoons
we counted after all the tired days. The moment does not flicker,
it pauses and waits, a homegrown tiger ready in our kind steady grip.