Monday, January 7, 2008

Juden

The red line down the margin of the paper
indicates a list is about to be drawn up.
Someone in a gray uniform is choosing.
Teeth are gnawing at the walls, but the wooden
slats are not what's keeping the prisoners in.
A hidden compulsion to understand oneself
as a victim—a soul flat and malleable
like hammered lead that says I need no courage
for courage is denial. One among
them scents roses as the band plays
piteously, and the three-four beat
of a waltz intimidates him more than the guns.
He intends to be chosen and bend like the stem
of a rose until his face is flat on the earth.
He'll breathe deeply of the soil until
the nutrients that support a flower flow
up his veins. One day he'll erupt
on a desert and like the myth of the eagle be
the sole beast who can stare at the sun without blinking.

(This poem appeared in Poetry East.)