Plopped on the bus stop bench, my father’s phantom & I are the consummate expression of a rich & inherited solitude. I stare ahead, cross-legged, fists in pockets. He pretends at the perusing of a paper. The Plymouth has given out again, this time with a foul sputter like blood bubbling in the neck of a cow. Revelers flow in & out of a bar across the road; the sort where men go to feel as if they’re hunting on a close friend’s private island. In & out they swagger, sabers of Cossacks, analyzing strategy, plunging, glinting, back into the pursuit. The quarry? Women so existent I feel like a vacuum. They smoke thin cigarettes in shimmering clusters, the smoke doing imitations of their necks. Do not ask if they are beautiful. These are the women you look away from quickly & try to focus on where you excel. For me: the dignity of numbers, the absurdities of horror. My father’s phantom asks what I think they talk about. I shrug my shoulders, remain silent. I do not know how to look at anyone but through the lens of my undesirability. A woman runs across the street with hair like a collapsing fire. Her body is a country, My body is a small blemish on the bottom of the ocean. My father’s phantom says, Tell me, boychik, tell me about this woman you love. What can I tell him? The fog hovers around a street-lamp. Look papa, I say to the absence, you can see the hem of her gown.
My response to the news has become visceral,
as though the fighting occurs between my guts.
This war & that, over & over. Numbers themselves
are not grim; just what we learn to attribute them to.
Another round for the boys, another round of boys.
I would thrust a saber through the belly of heaven
if it meant they would return to kiss their mothers’
ruined cheeks, their daughters’ confusion away.
Grandfather Clock sits at his table, moans, the Queen
of the Weimaraners wishes to console him, but look,
she holds a half-burnt photograph. & the Lithuanian
has no more room in her mouth. All the black flowers.
I don’t know how to tell you about your brother. How
he dances with my sister in a ballroom of clouds – you
wonder how I know this but I’ve always known. My curse:
to feel in the winds the manufacture of phantoms, it is not
something I can help. Snow falls onto the courtyard &
I catch it in my palm, put it to my ear the way a child
would a seashell. Murder in the hundred-thousands,
I saw it while falling on this field or that, they were
carted away like sacks of flour. Presumably, I think,
to salvage the bullets. What isn’t a business? Slicing
onions for an omelet I open my palm & foam
at the wound with gold.
Amid the bombs. Amid the smoldering altars. Amid the stars invisible
for the smoke. Amid cudgeled jokes. Amid children surrounded by walls
of slaughtered torahs. Amid bullet psalms & dollar psalms, the psalms
of abandonment. Amid soldiers turned chimney, spirits twisting from
the edge of tattered necks. Amid the czar’s blood ledgers. Amid brick-
smashed synagogue windows. Amid gunmetal trees & slogan-shaped
flowers. Amid owls interrogating each survivor quaking in the hours.
Amid the bruised syllables of the Kaddish. Amid the gibberish of loss.
Amid friends renamed for starlings & martyrs. Amid the boats, the rot
of the fruit. Amid all that non-partisan water. Amid marriages to acts
of subtraction. Amid prayers flung like lilies through the arbitrary dark.
Amid the carved-out wings discarded in the fields on the way from here
to there. Amid the color-stripped air. Amid a holocaust of auburn hair.
Amid the rumbling hearts of eggs. Amid red winters, red springs, red
autumns, red summers. Amid vaporized fathers & unraveled mothers.
Amid the pains that have been taken to turn our evens odd, something
blooms between two mouths, makes sense, makes quiet, makes god.