Written on clapboard or asbestos siding, the cartoony
spray-paint signatures of Apollo and Zeus,
two home boys out bombing last night in thick fog.
Fog near the shade of pearls. Except they didn’t see the mist
that way, glad for their thin leather gloves.
Wind raw at the wide avenue, so they cut
from there to here.
Even if this is in the past
tense, tense of the totally chilled-out,
even if they argued here over Krylon blue or candy-apple red,
that doesn’t mean they knocked-off and streaked home then.
And if I saw fog the shade of pearls
it doesn’t mean my heart in its own corrosive and healing fog
can’t tug on thin leather gloves and stand
in front of a wall, pissing off the Fates
and whoever else owns that wall. Whoever owns it
means less than the dry, fallen leaves of eucalyptus
blown crackling over tar and concrete
and sounding, when you shut your eyes, like every tree
bursting into leaf for the first time, speeded-up
like the first minute of the world.
I’ve died enough by now I trust
just what’s imperfect or ruined. I mean God,
God who is in the stop sign
asking to be shotgunned, the ocean that evaporates even
as we float. God the bent nail & broken lock,
and God the hangnail. The hangnail.
And a million others might be like me, our hopes
a kind of illegal entry, a belief in smashed windows,
like breaking & entering into a concert hall,
the place my friend & I crawled into an air shaft, & later
fell asleep. After breakage
there is always sleep.
We woke to gospel hymns from the dressing room
below, songs commending
embrace to the fists, & return to the prodigal.
And hasn’t my luck always been a shadow, stepping out, stretching?
I mean I trust what breaks.
A broken bone elicits condolence,
and the phone call sounds French if the transmission fritzes,
and our brains—our blessed, desirable brains—are composed
of infinitesimal magnets, millions of them
a billionth-of-a-milligram in weight, so
they make us knock our heads against hard walls.
When we pushed through the air vent,
the men singing seemed only a little surprised,
just slightly freaked,
three of them in black tuxes, & the fourth in red satin,
crimson, lit up like a furnace trimmed with paisley swirls,
the furnace of a planet, or of a fatalistic ocean liner
crisscrossing a planet we’ve not discovered yet,
a fire you might love to be thrown into.
That night they would perform the songs half
the country kept on its lips half of every day.
Songs mostly praising or lamenting or accusing some loved one
of some beautiful, horrendous betrayal or affection.
But dressing, between primping & joking about
their thinning afros, they sang of Jesus. Jesus,
who said, “Split a stick, & you shall find me inside.”
It was the winter we put on asbestos gloves, & flameproof
stuck our hands in the fireplace, adjusting logs.
Jesus, we told them, left no proof of having sung a single note.
And that, said the lead singer, is why we are all sinners.
What he meant was
we are all like the saints on my neighbors’ lawns—
whose plaster shoulders & noses,
chipped cloaks & tiaras, have to be bundled
in plastic sheets, each winter, blanketed
from the wind & the cold. That was what he meant,
though I couldn’t know it then.